Ontario teases students’ empty wallets

By Karoline Czerski

Ontario colleges and universities will enjoy a few extra political dollars scheduled to flow in with the new provincial budget, but students’ wallets will remain as empty as before.

On Mar. 27, Ontario’s budget proposal signaled new funding to colleges and universities of about $60 million in 2003-04 as a part of a multi-year commitment.

“We are very pleased that the government maintained its commitment to the funding it announced last year and has added additional funding,” said Association of Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology of Ontario chair Beverly Townsend, after the proposal was released.

While the funding will provide more money for educational institutions’ operating budgets that provide quality student services and academic resources, the Canadian Federation of Students feels that the aid will not be given to those who need it most–students.

“This government has made college and university unaffordable for many families and yet their budget makes no commitment to restoring access by curbing fee hikes,” said CFS Ontario Chairsperson Joel Duff.

Because the proposed budget lacks the commitment to fund tuition reduction and student financial aid, it places students in an increasingly difficult position when entering post-secondary institutions, according to the CFS. Tuition fees have increased by an average of 140 per cent in undergraduate Arts and Science programs, and by as much as 800 per cent in graduate and professional programs. The $60 million in funds will not make it into the hands of the students.

“How long will current students have to struggle to make ends meet before the government reexamines its own student finance program?”

The doomed question raised by Leslie Church, Executive Director of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, is answered by the long-standing mission of post-secondary education: high quality and competitive resources for an elite student body.

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