By Katie Swyers
Dear minister of training, colleges and universities Merrilee Fullerton,
Your 10 per cent tuition fee cut will save me exactly $807, thank you. But let me show you what ex-actly your government’s changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) and tuition fees will do to me personally.
I am one of the students who you are taking money away from by cutting the free tuition program. You are giving me $807, and in exchange I am losing $8,302.
The OSAP guidelines state, “You’re expected to help pay for your post-secondary education by: using any savings, investments, or other assets, working immediately prior to starting each year and working during the school year.” I already tried to do that, and it wasn’t enough.
I pay for my own education, so I chose to take time off before starting school and save as much as humanly possible. Through two restaurant jobs, 60-hour weeks, strict budgeting and probably not eating enough, I managed to put away nearly $40,000.
You have to be able to afford to live
I woke up at 5 a.m. to open the breakfast restaurant for 6:30 a.m. and worked till 2 or 3. Then, if I was doing a double, I’d wait three hours before going to my other job at a bar and work until close at 2 a.m. By the time I crawled into bed after 3 a.m., I’d been on my feet for over 20 hours. I always smelled like home fries and hollandaise sauce, with a note of vodka and beer on top. I wonder if you’ve ever had to wash discount Aunt Jemima out of your hair, or mop up frozen vomit in front of a bar?
My $40,000 wasn’t enough; I will graduate with debt. School on its own is expensive, and you have to add in transit cost, rent, food, textbooks, laptops and phone bills. You have to be able to afford to live.
Receiving $8,302 in grants through OSAP meant I could make job and school decisions based on aiding my future career, not paying down debt.
You said the six-month grace period still exists, but if you are accumulating debt through interest, it is not a grace period. Now, when I graduate, I won’t have that time to try and find a job in my field. Instead I’ll feel the pressure to go back to smelling like hollandaise sauce.
But what about your “freedom of choice” program allowing me to opt-out of non-essential student fees? Any university student will tell you that you do not get jobs from a degree alone—it is the extra-curriculars you do that give you experience and land you jobs. That’s what you’re deeming non-essential: job opportunities and student sup-port. You’re also jeopardizing my current source of income as a student journalist.
You are adding to my debt. You are not putting students first, your math does not add up. And quite frankly, you’re failing me