Free tuition too late for some
Post-secondary grads pushing Ontario government to offer some benefit from new plan
Ontario students who’ve already graduated from college or university say the new free tuition plan doesn’t benefit them — and an online petition asking that their loans either be forgiven or be made interest-free now has almost 63,000 signatures.
At a news conference Monday with NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, Ahmad Moussaoui told reporters he has $17,000 in debt after three years of college plus a year of university, “and like most students in Ontario, I graduated to find no jobs in my field. I incurred a lot of debt as well so that was kind of tough.”
Deb Matthews, the province’s minister of advanced education and skills development, said the government has “taken a lot of steps over 13 years in government to reduce student loans and, hence, student debt.”
The new tuition plan, which comes into effect next fall, means 150,000 students “will get more in grants — not loans, grants — than their tuition,” Matthews said. Currently, Ontario provides students with $1.3 billion in grants and loans, about 70 per cent of which don’t have to be repaid.
But Horwath said some big changes need to be made because “one of the biggest challenges young people face today is student debt,” which now averages $28,000 after four years of post-secondary studies. She said the NDP has pledged to put an end to interest charged on Ontario student loans, which would cost the government — but save students — a total of $25 million each year.
The Liberals’ “not-free tuition program is not the panacea they claim it is,” added Horwath, who launched a website for students to discuss debt.
Matthews, however, said she’s surprised the NDP “is not applauding these changes” to help lower-income students access post-secondary education.