Murray responds to allegations that new tuition grant is exclusive

By Tania MacWilliam
News

Feb. 9, 2012

*Link to original article here

Minister of training, colleges and universities, Glen Murray, dismissed charges that mature students are excluded from Ontario’s new 30 per cent tuition grant last week.

He says mature students are already benefitting from the province’s Second Career retraining program.

He made the remarks after his address last Wednesday during his visit to Hazel McCallion campus to promote the grant.

“A lot of people are talking about more tuition assistance,” he said. “But students are saying our biggest priority is accessibility right now. We need more seats. And that’s expensive.”

Joining the minister was Sheridan’s president, Jeff Zabudsky, MPP for Mississauga East-Cooksville, Dipika Dameria, and guest speaker Stephanie Kam, member of the student union board of directors and an International Business student.

Although the minister says he is keeping the cost of post-secondary schooling affordable with a $7,500 cap on student debt per term, students marching to Queens Park disagree.

Hundreds of students marched in protest of tuition costs and the inclusiveness of student aid. Murray says he is encouraged that so many students take their education seriously.

“We are very thrilled that students are out there raising increased awareness about the challenges that we face.”

The Ontario Tuition Grant offers eligible students 30 per cent off of their tuition. Non-direct entrants – students returning to the classroom after more than three years of being out of high school – are among those not eligible for the grant.

“We realize that we haven’t solved every problem yet but we also can’t go into deficit.”

The Ontario Tuition Grant was intended to help ease the financial burden on families who have children transitioning from high school into post-secondary education.

“We have, especially out here in Peel Region, a large number of families that have two or three or four or sometimes five students in high school, college or university,” he said.

“This [grant] really focuses on those families and those students.”

Although not every student will be eligible for every type of student aid, there’s a student aid for everyone, Murray says.

“We have 160,000 students right now on OSAP,” he said. “This adds a total of 310,000 students who will be getting some form of student aid.”

Kam, who is not eligible to receive the tuition grant, explained how OSAP has helped her pursue a post-secondary education.

“What many people fail to recognize is that in many countries around the world, students cannot easily afford post-secondary school education because financial aid in these regions are either insufficient or non-existent,” said Kam.

Murray recognizes that there may still be a gap in financial aid and is talking to student associations about the challenges of mature and independent students. He has also sent a letter out to every college and university in the last week asking them for increased data on their students.

“We realize that we haven’t solved every problem yet but we also can’t go into deficit,” he said.

Dameria agrees that while supporting education is important, we must keep in mind the fiscal reality. She says there needs to be a serious conversation about continuing to borrow funding.

“If we want to keep doing the things we want to do then it means people have to start thinking about their feelings about taxation,” she said. “You can’t have this borrowing to fill the gap if people don’t want to pay taxes.”

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