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Ontario scraps free tuition for low income students, cuts fees by 10 percent

Doug Ford's government is also doing away with the six month grace period to pay back education loans.

by Tamara Khandaker
Jan 17 2019, 9:43pm

As part of a series of postsecondary education reforms, the Ontario government is getting rid of the free tuition program for low income students, while simultaneously cutting tuition fees and scrapping mandatory student fees, they announced on Thursday.

Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Merrilee Fullerton announced that students will be paying 10 percent less in tuition next year — tuition fees will be frozen the year after that — and that some student fees, which fund clubs and student organizations, will no longer be mandatory.

“Student fees in Ontario can range as high as $2,000 per year, and too often, force students to pay for services they do not use and organizations they do not support,” said Fullerton.

Under the Student Choice initiative, students will be able to decide which organizations — student unions and student newspapers, for example — they want their money to go to. Some fees, like those that support walksafe programs, health and counselling, athletics and recreation, and academic support, however, will remain mandatory.

Under the Liberal Plan, students from low income families — those with a household income of less than $50,000 — were eligible for grants that were large enough to cover the entire cost of tuition. However, under Ford’s government, which says the program was becoming unsustainable, part of that funding will be a loan.

The Ford government argues that under the Liberals, the Ontario Student Assistance Program became “fiscally unsustainable,” citing a recent auditor general report which found that by 2020-21, OSAP could cost the province over $2 billion.

The government will keep the current $25,000 annual income threshold, which students have to meet before they’re required to start paying back the loan, but will eliminate the six-month grace period. The backgrounder justifies this change by saying it will align with the province’s repayment terms with that of the federal government, “to reduce complexity for students.”

However, tuition will be lowered by 10 percent across the board next year, according to the new plan, which says college students could see a reduction of $340 while universities arts and science students could see a drop of $660. Those in professional and graduate degree programs could see reductions of over $1,000, said a backgrounder on the reforms.

Cover image: Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks to the media during a press conference in downtown Toronto on December 18, 2018. A spokeswoman for Ontario's premier says Ford will use a trip to a Detroit auto show to meet with executives from General Motors and several other automakers today. Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

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