by Andrew MacLeod
The Ryerson Students’ Union and the Canadian Federation of Students are responding quickly to Premier Dalton McGuinty’s announcement that Ontario’s tuition freeze will end a year early.
“What we want is to get students, their families, and their parents to call their MPPs and express their concerns around this recent announcement,” said RSU President Rebecca Rose.
In addition to calling for pressure on MPPs, Rose said the RSU will also continue their postcard campaign in support of the tuition freeze.
Students across Ontario have signed and sent thousands of postcards to McGuinty since classes started in September, calling on him to maintain the tuition freeze.
Ryerson’s Academic Council has also taken up the issue, tabling a motion at the Oct. 11 meeting recommending the council endorse a fully-funded tuition freeze at the university and across the province until at least September 2008.
The CFS is taking a similar approach, said Ontario chairperson Jesse Greener.
“We plan to continue to work with this provincial government to secure those funds and to make sure that those funds are going directly to institutions, and not to unaccountable foundations,” Greener said.
Despite his intention to end the tuition freeze, McGuinty has not given up on finding the money to help universities and students. He and Quebec Premier Jean Charest both called on Ottawa last week to commit more money from the federal surplus to post-secondary education.
That call was partially heeded when federal Human Resources Minister Belinda Stronach announced last week that the federal government will be looking at ways to boost spending on universities, although lower tuition fees were not mentioned.
Greener believes the $1.5 billion earmarked for education spending could easily translate into a return to the tuition freeze.
“With that funding and with the funding that McGuinty and Charest are seeking to acquire, we could be in the position where roughly $6 billion in the next two years could be transferred to post-secondary institutions,” he said.
This “would allow Mr. McGuinty the opportunity to reverse his decision to increase tuition fees.”
Susanne Manbahal, a fourth-year film student at Ryerson wants the tuition freeze reinstated. “Between the money that is put away — the $1.5 billion — and the tuition freeze, I’d choose the tuition freeze,” she said.
McGuinty’s Sept. 30 announcement ending the tuition freeze came as a surprise to both the RSU and CFS. “We were completely blindsided by this,” said Rose. “Students had been in meetings with the premier and ministers to talk about post-secondary education and this never came up. This came out of the blue.”
Greener echoed Rose’s sentiments.
“(McGuinty) promised to freeze tuition fees for at least two years, and use the first two years of that freeze to develop a tuition fee framework that was satisfactory to students,” Greener said.
“We’d been getting fairly consistent messages that there would be no decision on what was going to happen with tuition fees until December.”
The provincial government and students had been holding meetings since July 20 about coming up with a new tuition fee framework for September 2006.