The Ontario government has recently announced that university and college would soon be free for low-income families.
The Ontario student grant is a new, updated version of the current student aid system and will begin in the 2017-2018 school year. Money will be available at the start of the school year, before tuition is due, for families earning less than $50,000.
“I think free tuition is a great idea,” says 23-year-old Sascha Gedoy. “I’m really looking forward to seeing where it goes.”
Students and teachers alike were initially extremely pleased with the announcement on Feb. 25.
“I am very happy that the government is acknowledging the issue and opening the door to post secondary education for those in need,” says high school teacher Jodie MacInnis. “We all deserve the right to education.”
But as great as this may sound, there are a few red flags. It overlooks students whose parents either can’t pay for their kids’ education, or simply don’t want to.
“I would never have qualified for this free tuition because my father ‘made too much’,” says MacInnis. “But he did not make enough to pay for my schooling. I didn’t get OSAP, I had to take out a bank loan in order to go to school.”
This new plan also does not take into account the rising tuition and living expenses. Meaning that if tuition rates go up in the next years, the grants will not.
Not to mention that the “free” part comes with a major catch. For students to qualify for these grants, their families must contribute $3,000 annually. So basically, you’re getting free tuition, only it’s costing you $3,000.
“As a teacher, I see that every student has challenges that stand in their way to learning,” says MacInnis. “I do not think it is fair to keep the financial roadblock in place.”
She explains that although she was happy with the new announcement, she believes that this is not the offer that the province deserves. The good news though, is that this plan is a step in the right direction, for families and students.