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Ford government’s tuition cut to cost universities $360 million and colleges $80 million

Ford government’s tuition cut to cost universities $360 million and colleges $80 million
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Universities and colleges will take an estimated $440 million hit under the Ontario government’s planned — and it remains unclear if the province will make up the difference.

The tuition announcement, expected Thursday from Merrilee Fullerton, minister of training, colleges and universities, will cut and then freeze tuition rates for the next two years, a $360 million loss for universities alone. For colleges, the amount is about $80 million.

The government is also expected to make changes to the OSAP student aid system, which under the previous Liberal government provided “free tuition” for 230,000 post-secondary students.

“Students will pay for this with larger classes and fewer professors,” said New Democrat MPP Chris Glover, a former Toronto public school board trustee and York University professor, calling it a “smoke and mirrors exercise.”

“Are they going to cut OSAP grants?” added the Spadina-Fort York MPP. “Any benefits students may get from this announcement — students will end up the losers on this.”

According to government documents obtained by the Star , the province will make changes to the Tuition Free Framework, slashing rates by 10 per cent — or about $340 a year for college students, and $660 for those in universities — for this fall, and keep that rate for the 2020-1 school year.

The documents from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities say the changes will “protect students and provide a financially predictable environment” and “keep more money” in students’ pockets.

Current university tuition for undergraduate students is almost $9,000 a year.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said he wants to be “optimistic that lower tuition fees will support students, but the jury is still out” and is worried about it being “an excuse for cuts to student aid or college and university budgets.”

He said “until the government announces all of its changes, we won’t know if this is yet another instance of (Premier Doug Ford) offering a shiny penny to distract from deeper cuts.”

Glover said Ontario’s post-secondary system have the lowest funding levels of all provinces and wonders about the impact on low-income students.

In her report last December, Ontario’s auditor general said would soon hit $2 billion a year, or 50 per cent higher than estimated.

Bonnie Lysyk also said there was no follow-up to ensure that the program, which provides non-repayable grants to qualifying students, was actually boosting the number of low-income students in the province’s colleges and universities. She also said there was no way to ensure that mature students receiving the grants were actually needy.

Students leaders and post-secondary institutions were waiting for more details on the Ford government’s plans before commenting.

However Gyllian Phillips, president of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, called it “quite concerning that an announcement of this magnitude is occurring without the government consulting any stakeholders at Ontario’s universities or colleges.”

She said while “reducing tuition fees is good public policy for increasing access to post-secondary education … any reduction must be matched with an equivalent increase in public funding.”
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