Following a surprise announcement from the Ontario government about dramatic changes to postsecondary education, MPP for Northumberland—Peterborough South and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities David Piccini spoke to The Varsity on the specifics of the announcements.

According to Piccini, the six month grace period — which allows students to begin repaying provincial student loans six months after graduation — will remain. However, interest will accrue on the loans immediately after graduation.

Piccini justified this decision by saying that it would align with the process of repaying federal government loans.

Confusion around whether government would enforce opt-out ancillary fees

Ambiguity remains around the determination of “essential” and “non-essential” student fees and how the government would enforce its execution.

The provincial mandate requires institutions to develop an opt-out system for ancillary fees, categorizing them as either “essential” or “non-essential.” In her announcement, Minister of Training, Universities and Colleges Merrilee Fullerton stressed that the opt-out option would only apply to fees not related to health and safety and that universities would have “leeway” in deciding classifications.

When asked what the government would do if universities decided not to deem any fee “non-essential,” Piccini said that universities will be able to develop these policies “at their discretion.”

“Universities are autonomous and we’ve outlined a policy to give students choice, and we certainly hope students will be given choice in this.”

However, Piccini also stated repeatedly during the interview with The Varsity that “There has to be an opt-out option.”

This story is developing, more to follow.