Tuition jumps, again. McGuinty draws blood from stone.

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By Ashley Spegel

Another year, another tuition hike for Ryerson students.

Ryerson’s tuition went up 4.5 per cent for undergraduates this year as they shoulder the cost of the McGuinty government’s Reaching Higher plan, a $6.2 billion scholarship and bursary program for lower-income families.

“The government is planning to use this money to pay for a portion of the tuition of under-funded students hoping to attend a post-secondary institute,” said Jesse Greener, Ontario chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students.

“Another fraction the money is going toward the under-funded education system.”

Established in March 2006, Reaching Higher set out a policy for tuition increases at universities and colleges across Ontario to fund low-income aid programs. The framework put a five per cent cap on the average increase for undergrad students. Graduate students will pay more, a problem for Ryerson as it introduces new graduate degrees.

“Grad, professional and post-diploma students may face an increase of up to eight per cent,” Greener said.

“If you’re international or continuing education student, there’s no limit on how fast the fees will go up.”

In 2005, the provincial government announced $6.2 billion to be distributed over a five-year period to support the struggling post-secondary sector.

They tied it into the Reaching Higher Plan months later, alotting $4 billion of the cash for aid programs this year and next.

Although a portion of the funding received is coming from the federal and provincial government, the remaining cash is taken from students’ pockets.

“The provincial and federal governments are injecting funding for financial aid into the (post-secondary education) system, but much that funding is coming from the increased tuition fees,” Greener said.

“For every dollar McGuinty is investing in financial aid programs, students are paying $1.30 in tuition fees.”

Chloë Tse, a third-year journalism student, is appalled that her hard-earned summer earnings are going toward financing other students. “Why am I financing someone else’s education?” she said.

“My hard-earned money is going to help someone else other than me, and that’s not cool.”

Nora Loreto, VP Education of the Ryerson Students’ Union, is disgusted that students are a part of the resolution for the financial problems of the Ontario government.

“The only thing true about Reaching Higher is that the government is reaching higher into the pocket of students,” she said.

“This (tuition) hike means students are going have to work harder to make more money to pay for their education, student loans are going increase and inflation is going to be worse.”

Greener believes Reaching Higher isn’t going to benefit anyone. Tuition increases are slated for the next three years and the money used to set up financial aid programs won’t be much use to under-funded students because they’ll still be paying for their education.

“Financial aid is primarily about access to loan debt and not about getting grants into the system,” he said.

“Less than 10 per cent of students will get a grant, while the other 90 per cent will be forced to deal with higher fees through two routes: access to education through debt or no education at all.”

A Statistics Canada report put Ontario’s average undergrad tuition fee for 2006/2007 at $5,106, only lower than New Brunswick’s $5,328 and Nova Scotia’s whopping $6,571.

The same report stated that tuition fees have increased nearly 15 per cent in Ontario since 2001.

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