OUSA tackles rising tuition fees

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By Brennan Doherty

The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) has added to post-secondary initiatives against rising tuition fees with their “Time Out Tuition” campaign.

The campaign seeks to eradicate  the three per cent increase cap the provincial government is currently allowed to impose.

“What we’re asking for is the government to keep the rate of tuition at what it is right now,” said Lindsee Perkins, Western University’s OUSA representative.

OUSA started brainstorming with its members Jan. 13. But they’ve pushed their campaign on Ontario MPPs at LobbyCon, where lobbyists mingle with Queen’s Park staffers, since Dec. 2014. They’re slated to speak at the Ontario government’s public consultation for next year’s operating budget.

On their site, they claim tuition fees were 19 per cent of university revenue in 1992 — those figures grew to 51 per cent in 2012.

“The government isn’t paying as much as they used to for our education. We don’t feel that that’s  fair anymore,” Perkins said.

Cormac McGee, the RSU’s vice president education, hasn’t run an active tuition- fee campaign similar to OUSA — the RSU is a member local of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), which has its own platform. Still, he’s intrigued.

An Imprint story quoted an OUSA official saying that they plan for a third of the extra money to come from a discontinuation of $365 million in university tax rebates mailed out to Ontario students quarterly.

“I think this would be a very doable reallocation if you’re only taking a third of [the $365 million] to freeze tuition,” McGee said.

CFS’ 2015 education plan called for tuition reductions to 2005 levels. The estimate for their one-year plan reduction costs $1.2 billion.

“We’re excited to see other students in the province are getting on board with the call for more accessible post-secondary education,” said Rajean Hoilett, a CFS chairperson and former RSU president.

The CFS has a campaign tackling tuition fees called “Fight the Fees,” calling for the province to adopt a four-year plan to drop tuition fees in Ontario by 50 per cent, forgive outstanding student loans and allocate additional funds to public education.

Hoilett said he’d like to see OUSA look at causes behind student debt. Hoilett said the CFS hasn’t networked with OUSA about Time Out Tuition, but  keeps tabs on these kinds of initiatives and believes there will be opportunities to work together.

OUSA also wants the Ontario government to reimburse universities for lost funds, set at about $106 million yearly. McGee said he’s supportive of the effort.

“Obviously, freezing tuition with more government subsidies is something I’m very, very pro on,” he said. “As long as it’s done right.”

Reignite Ryerson representative Vajdaan Tanveer said he’s more concerned with working with the CFS than OUSA. He said he’s not surprised about OUSA’s campaign.

“We’ve seen these numbers before, we’ve worked with these numbers before, and we understand where they’re coming from,” he said.

Tanveer said Time Out Tuition fails to include marginalized communities — racialized and LGBTQ people, and women — struggling to attain post-secondary education.

“They go hand-in-hand and you can’t talk about one without talking about the other,” Tanveer said.

If the Ontario government adopts OUSA’s plan this year, changes won’t be seen until at least 2017.

“I would love for this to be implemented tomorrow. But the reality of it is that they’d have to put  it in their budget,” Perkins said.

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