Ont. freezes tuition for another year, but I'm still feeling icy

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Tuition fees are frozen but so are bursaries and grants. Are you picking up what I am putting down here?

The tuition freeze in Ontario should, in theory, leave a lot of parents and students feeling a little warmer in the upcoming year as we get another break for the upcoming 2022/23 year, the first being the 10 per cent reduction in tuition fees in 2019 when Ontario had the highest tuition rates amongst the provinces. With this grand announcement it seems like all our Christmases have come at once. Forgive me when I feel a little sickened by Doug Ford and his band of merry men and women patting themselves on the back for making education (seem) affordable.

“Our government recognizes that students and their families make huge sacrifices to attend college and university, so our government will continue to look for ways to reduce financial barriers for learners,” Colleges and University Minister Jill Dunlop said in a statement.

I researched how other countries remove barriers to education and found a recent announcement by the Scottish government stating that “EU students who study a Further or Higher education course in Scotland in the 2020/2021 academic year will be charged the same tuition fees and will get the same support as Scottish students for the entirety of their course. This means that the vast majority of EU students will be guaranteed free tuition.” Free education seems so out of reach like something in a fairy-tale, yet it is happening and being provided to students in a country that isn’t as financially well-equipped as Canada is. Canada, and in this respect, Ontario, does not lack resources but resourcefulness. Free education would remove barriers for students from lower income families and perhaps give them an opportunity to put back into the Canadian economy in other ways, perhaps with wellpaid employment.

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According to a 2020 undergraduate student alliance, Ontario has had some of the highest tuition rates in the country and this sudden concern for affordable education is due to the result of some obvious worldwide unprecedented global events. This tuition freeze also does not apply to foreign and out-of-province students and the ethics surrounding this has not been properly addressed – especially considering the global situation we find ourselves currently living in.

Tuition fees are frozen but so are bursaries and grants. Are you picking up what I’m putting down here? If we look at the rate of inflation being the highest it’s been in decades, this gesture by the Ford government seems to be like a smoke screen distracting us from the impact of the financial sucker-punch we are still going to face in the fall due to the rates of inflation. These barriers to education, especially for the working-class and lower income families, have not been frozen.

Let’s do the math: if you freeze tuition fees, the cost of living and sky-high food prices and soaring fuel prices will still not go unnoticed by students. According to several news sources, as of April 1, Justin Trudeau’s estimated salary will be well over $350,000, an estimated $21,600 pay increase from the year before, while senators and backbenchers will receive an estimated $11,000 pay increase. For these folks, inflation and sky-rocketing prices will seem like a Netflix series that they can merely switch off if they feel uncomfortable.

Education services are not luxuries for students, but necessary to the quality of their education and experience during their formative years in higher education. Students who have learning disabilities or need mental health assistance need to be supported and this takes hard cash. There is no use in running mental health campaigns and awareness weeks when the school does not have the money to put the supports in place. For someone like me, who depends on these already strained support systems, they are not services we could get through the college without funding. There are students with injuries, who are neurodivergent, students who come from war-torn countries, are abuse and sexual assault victims that need high quality support services at the school to function.

So, I ask, where is this money coming from? Tuition fees and grants are both frozen and the rates of inflation and wage increases continue to grow. I have never been good at math but perhaps someone should highlight this little glitch to Ford at the next meeting. We the people will still be paying for the tuition freeze and the bursary freeze and all the rest of the financial fallout from the pandemic and other global crises that has us all in a financial free fall. Are we supposed to feel grateful to this government? What for again?

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.