Why Ontario tuition cuts are a threat to Filipino students on campus

Community News & Features Feb 22, 2019 at 4:23 pm

Ontario Student Assistance ProgramBy Ysh Cabana
The Philippine Reporter

THE government of Ontario under Premier Doug Ford announced major changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) and tuition in January 2019.

Among the many changes are the elimination of free tuition and a reduction in the number of grants for post-secondary financial aid compared to loans. These measures will be balanced by a 10 per cent cut in overall tuition fees.
What are the changes?

Previously, post-secondary students whose families earned $175,000 or less per year were eligible for funding from OSAP. The Doug Ford government is reducing the family income threshold from $175,000 to $140,000 according to the new rules.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford

Ontario Premier Doug Ford

In addition to the changes to grants, OSAP will be removing the six-month grace period for graduating students who received loans from the government. This grace period was created to allow students to find a steady income after graduating without interest being collected on their student loans.

The government also announced tuition fees would decrease 10 per cent for the 2019-2020 academic year, and then be frozen the following year. The tuition cut, which does not apply to foreign students, is expected to take about $360 million away from universities and $80 million from colleges.

As well, the Ford government released the plan for “student choice initiative” to give students a choice to opt out from additional fees. Some fees considered “essential” will remain mandatory, including walksafe programs, health and counselling, athletics and recreation and academic support. Any programs not within these categories, such as those funds for campus organizations and student newspapers, are considered non-essential.

In addition, students can’t opt out of existing compulsory transit passes. However, they may opt out of health and dental plans—but only if they have pre-existing coverage.

How these will affect us?

Under the old rules, many students were eligible to receive non-repayable grants up to the full cost of their tuition. Now, most of the grants will go to students whose families earn $50,000 or less per year, while the rest will receive funding in the form of a loan. Coupled with the removal of the six-month grace period, this is a significant change.

Eliminating the grace period brings the provincial policy in line with federal rules in order to “reduce complexity for students,” the government said in a news release. But for a graduating student, it means students will be charged the interest on student loans right after graduation regardless of whether or not they have a job lined up outside of school.

On average, a university student will save $660, and a college student will see a reduction in tuition for $340.

As for the optional student fees, the plan is unclear how exactly that will play out. Will students see a single “student union” fee to withdraw from? Or will they be able to go through each group or service (Filipino student association, women’s groups, Indigenous groups and so on), pulling their individual contribution?

university-of-toronto-squarelogo-1392755115358What has been the response?

For youth group Anakbayan, it is clear that the changes will lead to “further disenfranchisement of Filipino youth.”

According to the study Filipino Youth Transitions In Canada, Filipino youth have among the lowest rates of university graduation despite having parents with among the highest rates of university degree-holdership of all immigrant groups.
Pushed to work abroad by Philippine labor export policy, many graduates find their educational and professional credentials de-valued upon their arrival in Canada. This forces them to either work in low-paying precarious jobs and/or re-enter university or college to accumulate further debt.

Services and groups designed to serve minorities, including Filipino students, will now be controlled by the majority. In the end, students will bear the burden of the cuts.

To paraphrase Philippine hero Jose Rizal, indeed, the youth is the hope for our future. That is if their right to education they deserve and need is not denied. Otherwise, our future is on rocky ground.