The narrow eligibility requirements surrounding the Liberal government’s recent tuition grant has led the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) to petition for change.
Eligible students must be four years or less out of high school and their parental income must be less than $160,000 in order to receive the grant. The grant also excludes out-of-province, international, and part-time students.
According to CFS calculations, only one third of students will qualify for the grant.
Hoping to pressure the provincial government to introduce a 13 per cent cut across the board, the group staged a February 1 protest in Queen’s Park, appealing to premier McGuinty and minister for raining, colleges and universities Glen Murray for change. Hundreds of students from across Ontario attended.
Earlier this year, a CFS petition bearing 40,000 signatures was delivered to Murray.
On the day of the protest, a heavy line of police and legislative security officers cordoned off the Legislature building.
As the group paused in Queen’s Park, they were led in a call-and-response: “We don’t want no mac and cheese, come on Dalton drop our fees!”
“We know you’re in there, Dalton!” shouted rally leaders towards the Legislature, as staffers within gathered by the window to look on.
Largely because the CFS is drawing attention to the issue, it has become a thorn in Murray’s side.
“The problem I’m having with the CFS, in spite of significant efforts to reach out to them, is this sort of attitude of ‘give it [all to me] and give it to me today,” said Murray in a conference call with campus media. “Every time we turn around and do something, the glass is always half-empty for them.”
To spin the grant in a more positive light, Murray has taken it upon himself to promote it. Last month, Murray spoke at a student leadership conference at Woodsworth College.
He has also visited University of Toronto Mississauga, accompanied by local Liberal MPP Harinder Takhar, where he told students, “We are keeping our promise to make a real difference in the cost of tuition for undergraduate students and their families.”
“This grant means that eligible students will enjoy the lowest tuition costs in the past 10 years,” he said.
In response to the February 1 protest, the Liberal party’s youth branch organized a pub night called “Thank-You for the #30off, Premier!” McGuinty attended the event.
U of T’s Young Liberals club and the ministry have been pushing the use of the Twitter hashtag “#30off,” encouraging students to tweet about their gratitude for the grant — if they qualify.
The first wave of 70,000 grant cheques arrived in students’ bank accounts during the protest.
In spite of their differences on this issue, CFS-Ontario chairperson Sandy Hudson maintained that the minister and the CFS enjoy a cordial working relationship. The CFS is one of several lobbying groups consulted on a regular basis by the ministry for education matters, including the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance and the College Alliance.