By Matt Kwong
The Ontario government is putting the sizzle on Ernie the hot dog guy’s bursaries. For 10 years, Ernie has been flipping weiners and rescuing students from financial jams, donating a day’s earnings of hot dog sales every year for student bursaries.
But the popular chef’s bursaries may be put on the backburner now that the government is freezing the Ontario Student Opportunity Trust Fund, also known as OSOTF II.
The program may be dropped as soon as 2005 – well short of its original 2011 dateline. OSOTF II matches private donations dollar for dollar. For four years, it provided bursaries for cash-strapped students, often allowing them to complete the semester.
“Does the future of this province depend on electricity, gas? No, it’s going to be the student,” said Ernie.
The fate of OSOTF II is now up to former premier Bob Rae, whose review on post-secondary education will be ready this fall.
With the 2011 commitment, Ryerson was guaranteed just shy of $8.2 million in funds. If Rae recommends scrapping the program early, that figure could drop to just $1.1 million.
“Universities find this very disturbing,” said Adam Kahan, Ryerson’s head fundraiser.
About 50 benefactors were assured funds would be matched. Now Ryerson needs to contact those donors to inform them no such guarantees can be made after 2005.
Continuing Education could also be seriously affected. When Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Mary Anne Chambers spoke on campus in July, RyeSAC President Dave MacLean challenged her on OSOTF II.
“She was talking about how the Liberal government is committed to making post-secondary institutions more accessible financially,” MacLean said, adding cancellation of the program could mean the loss of $14 million in endowments.
“I wouldn’t call that an increase in accessibility.”
CESAR President Andre Cherrie could not be reached.