Provincial student union representatives discussed the future of post-secondary education during a roundtable event at the University of Windsor last Thursday.
The tuition fee framework, set by the provincial government, dictates how much fees can be increased by universities each year. Currently, it’s set between four and eight per cent for domestic students, with no limit on international student fee increases.
The McGuinty government announced last spring a one-year extension on a five per cent cap to overall post-secondary tuition fee increases.
“This year, the tuition fee framework is being renegotiated,” said Mohammad Akbar, University of Windsor Students’ Alliance vice-president university affairs. “We should have an answer on what it’s going to look like by January, and we’re going to be having negotiations with the ministry about that.”
“We really need to show that this university is passionate about these issues, as we have in the past,” Akbar added.
“We’re hosting these townhalls on campuses across Ontario,” said Sarah Jayne King, the Ontario chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students, “seeking students’ feedback on education and seeking students’ vision for post-secondary education, to be able to produce a submission that will go to government.”
UWindsor is a member of CFS, a union representing 1.5 million students across over 80 Canadian universities and colleges, which advocates for students at the federal and provincial levels.
Ten students sat around a table in the CAW Student Centre last week to talk about raising tuition costs and the impact they have on students, the state of education and the student strike in Québec.
“Education’s a right,” said UWindsor student Sheilan Sinjarn, who attended the discussion. “We should have that without having to pay.”
Akbar said the purpose of the roundtable was to engage student debate around the subject on a more individual level. “In the future, we’re going to hold a larger townhall to express UWindsor student perspectives on tuition fees to various levels (of government).”
Tuition fees have been increasing in recent years, said King, adding, “Clearly the government hasn’t been listening too much … and are actually in the process of drastically changing the education system with minimal consultation with students.”
According to CFS, tuition fees have gone up by 71 per cent since 2006; three times the increase of inflation.
In 2011, the CFS and the Canadian Association of University Teachers polled Ontarians on their views about post-secondary education. The result: 90 per cent think tuition fees should be reduced or frozen, 79 per cent find students borrow too much money to pay for education and 59 per cent would pay more taxes to increase investment in post-secondary education.
Collectively, Ontarians maintain $9 billion in student debt. The Liberal government introduced a 30 per cent off tuition grant last year, but not all post-secondary students are eligible for the program.
King suggested that students concerned about rising tuition fees and underfunded education attend a free activist assembly from Oct. 12 to 14 at the University of Toronto, St. George Campus.