The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) organized a UTSC Solidarity Action event with a walkout on March 20 as a part of a province-wide walkout to protest the Ontario government’s changes to postsecondary education funding.
The event took place across three locations at UTSC: the Bladen Wing, the Instructional Centre, and the Student Centre. At all locations, SCSU representatives and volunteers collected signatures for its petition against the provincial government’s reforms, as well as letters to be sent to various MPPs.
The SCSU warns that the planned tuition reduction will result in a loss of “approximately $360 million from university operating budgets,” and will increase the already “skyrocketing tuition fees for international students.”
The province announced the changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) on January 17, saying that the previous model, which granted tuition funding to families earning up to $175,000, was fiscally unsustainable.
The government eliminated the six-month interest-free grace period on OSAP loans, while also lowering the income threshold at which students can qualify for grants. This may force students to take on more loans and accumulate more debt.
In an interview with The Varsity, SCSU Vice-President External Hana Syed, who helped to organize the event, emphasized the importance of participating in solidarity action.
“The services that our student union offers, like operating a food bank, and the Women’s and Trans Centre, or Racialized Student Collective, and [Free Book Network] that support marginalized communities especially, are now going to be cut.”
Speaking on the changes to OSAP, Syed said, “The way that I’m even able to access education and be here is because I am on OSAP… I have three siblings; it would be impossible for my parents… to send all of us to school, and education is that important to my family.”
Chemi Lhamo, current SCSU Vice-President Equity and President-elect, believes the government’s changes affect all students.
“It’s an attack on us,” Lhamo told The Varsity. “When you don’t invest in our future generations, it’s a testament to where your morals lie.”
“I am a part-time student because education is already highly inaccessible to someone like me who comes from different intersectional identities, and I think this can be relatable to a lot of other students, especially in the Scarborough campus because about 80 per cent of our students are racialized folks,” Lhamo said. “A racialized woman came into my office in tears, and said, ‘Chemi, I don’t know how I’m going to come to school next year.’ And that shakes me to the core.”