By Keith Capstick
Kathleen Wynne was at the Digital Media Zone (DMZ) on March 15 to discuss the new Ontario government’s tuition grant model with representatives from the country’s largest student advocacy groups.
The talk — which included Wynne, Canadian Federation of Students Ontario (CFS-O) Chairperson and last year’s Ryerson Students’ Union president Rajean Hoilett, a representative from the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) and the College Student Alliance (CSA) — had the student leaders posing questions for Wynne from students all over Canada through the social media video app, Periscope.
The discussion included many of the questions being asked around Ryerson’s campus this year surrounding access to education. The conversation ranged from next steps in budgeting, to additional support for part-time and international students to the government’s goals for the 2017 tuition framework reassessment. Students concerns focused on whether this new budgeting step meant that the future would continue to see increases in tuition year-to-year.
Wynne pointed to the importance of balancing reduction in education costs with maintaining a high level of education across Ontario universities.
On the topic of the possibility of free tuition, Wynne agreed that it a worthwhile conversation to have, but that the province is more focused on getting students to school that would otherwise be unable to get there.
“In an ideal world we might actually be there [talking about free tuition], but at this point I don’t know how we’d do that,” Wynne said.
The premier also addressed the $6,160 tuition average that the new budget model sets itself at and the professional courses like engineering that require students to pay more than that average. Wynne said that this is one of the places the government will have to start working early to make sure the budget is more applicable to the realities of student finances.
On the same note, Wynne said that large families that make more than $50,000 a year will receive additional help to cater to the realities of having large families.
Finally, students also urged for more federal support for students and asked Wynne if Ontario will be trying to engage the new Trudeau government in this new push to make access to education easier for students.
Hoilett said that this was a big win for students who have been working to make education more accessible for years now and that he was impressed by the tough questions they had for Wynne. He added that students were “really bold and demonstrated their concern for what the new Ontario student grant might mean for a continued trend of tuition fee increases.”
“It was cool to see here credit the work of students in the moves the government took with the new Ontario student grant,” Hoilett said.