Queen's Park. CC Flickr by Joseph Morris.

As tuition fees in Ontario continue to rise above the national average, student groups across the province are calling for post-secondary education a funding reform.

On January 11, the Ontario Undergraduate Students’ Alliance (OUSA) launched a week-long campaign with its eight affiliated universities called TimeOut Tuition.

The OUSA proposed that the next tuition framework set by the provincial government should increase their investments in universities and reallocate the $340 million currently used for tuition, textbook, and education tax credits. Under the current funding model, which is set to expire in 2017, there are tuition increases of three to five per cent.

“What we wanted to see was a redistribution of these funds to more effective means of financial assistance both through forms of a tuition freeze[…] and also through an expansion of things like OSAP and the Ontario Tuition Grant,” said OUSA president Spencer Nestico-Semianiw.

The OUSA is also concerned that Ontario has since become a publicly-assisted, rather than publicly-funded education system, despite Ontario having increased its operating grants by $2.2 billion since 2002–2003. Grants to colleges and universities are also projected to increase by $46 million in 2015-2016.

“The descriptors of ‘publicly-assisted’ and ‘publicly-funded’ are interchangeable. The Ontario government provides public funding to all public universities and colleges,” said Tanya Blazina, spokesperson for the ministry.

The Ontario chapter of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS-O), of which the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) is a member, ran a campaign called The Hikes Stop Here in 2013. That campaign also called on the government to rescind the current tuition framework.

“It is really encouraging to see other students in the province joining this call for more affordable education and we’re excited that folks are calling for a freeze in tuition fees. We hope to continue to further that call,” said Rajean Hoilett, CFS-O chairperson.

According to recent polling by the CFS and the Canadian Association of University Teachers, 90 per cent of Ontarians believe that tuition fees should be reduced or frozen. Polling also revealed that over 60 per cent of students are forced to cut back on food costs, and almost half of full-time students work during the school year.

Hoilett said that the CFS will continue to call for affordable and accessible education with an upcoming Fight the Fees campaign, which is intended to pressure the government to replace student loans with grants, reduce tuition fees, and centre access to education among marginalized populations.

“Our government looks forward to working closely with student leaders and our post-secondary institutions to develop a renewed tuition framework that continues to limit tuition fees and keeps post-secondary education accessible for all students,” said Blazina.

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