An announcement by the McGuinty government extending the five per cent tuition fee cap has been met with criticism and outrage from student groups across Ontario.
The cap would allow postsecondary institutions to increase fees by up to an average of five per cent — almost twice the inflation rate — for the seventh year in a row. It has been a part of the educational framework since 2006.
“The five per cent tuition cap is the largest cap across the country,” said Sandy Hudson, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students, Ontario. “No other province has a cap that’s that big. Most of the caps are inflationary caps.”
According to Statistics Canada, Ontario’s average tuition fees are the highest in the country at $6,640, followed by New Brunswick’s, which, at $ 5,853, is still nearly $800 less.
“In the last six years, we have seen tuition fees increase by 71 per cent. We have seen provincial funding to our institutions go down and students are now shouldering more of that underfunding than ever before,” said Shaun Shepherd, VP external for UTSU and next year’s elected UTSU president.
Shepherd stated that instead of raising tuition by five per cent and giving some students back $1,600, a better alternative would be to use the funding allocated for the grant to provide an overall tuition fee reduction.
The announcement also included a moratorium on increasing or establishing flat and deferral fees for 2012–13.
For weeks, there have been rumours of a province-wide flat fee being established for all arts and science programs, but education minister Glen Murray declared them false.
“No changes are being contemplated that would require all universities to set standard tuition fees for arts and science programs,” said Murray in a statement.
This was one part of the announcement that was well-received by students.
“It is good to see a moratorium on flat fees in the province, and we hope to work with the MTCU on eliminating flat fees,” Shepherd said.
But overall, the reaction still has been that the government is not doing all that it can for postsecondary students.
Hudson said that the government needs to prioritize in investing on postsecondary education.
She also added that free education in Ontario would only cost $2.4 billion. That is less than one third of the annual $8-billion corporate tax.
“We need to see a fully funded reduction in our tuition fees to address the upfront barriers to accessing postsecondary education facing many communities, and we need to see an investment in upfront, needs-based grants to decrease student debt in the province,” Shepherd said.