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‘How am I supposed to plan for this?’: University students walk out of class over changes to post-secondary funding

‘How am I supposed to plan for this?’: University students walk out of class over changes to post-secondary funding
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Master’s student Tamara Rayan is pondering the need for a third job to pay down her student debt — she says the Ontario government’s changes to post-secondary funding will slash grants that cover half of her tuition fees.

Rayan, 26, was among some 250 students who walked out of classes at the University of Toronto Wednesday to protest the Progressive Conservatives’ move to and make some student fees, including those funding campus clubs, optional.

This year, Rayan said she received $6,000 in grants to cover half of her close to $13,000 in fees.

“With the government cuts, now I’m only going to get $3,000 in grants and have to use a $10,000 loan, which is not OK,” she said while waving a placard amid a gaggle of students on the steps of the U of T administrative offices.

Rayan was among thousands of students at Ontario university and college campuses to walk out Wednesday in a call for the province to scrap the proposed changes and to increase access to grants, like the ones Rayan uses to lessen her need for loans.

Equally concerning to the master’s of information student is the end of the long-standing interest-free grace period students had before needing to start repaying their OSAP loans.

“Once I graduate, I have to hope that I have a job, because how am I going to pay off what is going to accumulate to being $16,000 in debt,” Rayan said.

“Everything was so sudden. How am I supposed to plan for this? I’m already working two jobs and doing a graduate degree.”

The government is promising a 10 per cent cut in tuition fees and an option to opt out of some ancillary fees, but Rayan says that’s just a drop in the bucket. She hopes the government will reverse the changes it announced January.

The provincial overhaul could translate into an estimated loss of $360 million for universities and $80 million for colleges, a key concern for protest organizer, Simran Dhunna, a master’s of public health student.

Schools will compensate for the loss of money “by hurting our most racialized, vulnerable, gender diverse and low-income students,” she said. “This is a shame.”

The previous government had made it possible for low-income students to cover the bulk of their tuition fees with grants. The impending changes will now force those students to cover more of their tuition with loans.

At U of T, Dhunna said, the now-optional student fees go to key services, like “supporting food banks, peer counselling and equitable services for LGBTQ2S folks.”

Student protests against the funding changes have been ramping up in recent weeks, including a recent outburst in the legislature where students shouted obscenities at the premier .

U of T student, Nour Alideeb, the chair for Canadian Federation of Students Ontario, one of the groups behind the provincewide day of protest, said the tuition reduction is a step in the right direction, “but without the government’s funding students will be impacted. We’re not going to stand for it.”
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