High Ontario tuition irks college students

College and university tuition in Ontario is a hot topic right now after the 2009 Statistics Canada report showed that Ontario’s students pay the highest fees in the country.

With the average student paying $5,951 per year for the cost of their post-secondary education — a more than 20 per cent increase since Premier Dalton McGuinty erased the tuition fee freeze in 2006 — students across the province are feeling the pinch. And the learners at East York’s college campus are no exception.

It’s not hard to find students at Centennial College’s Carlaw Avenue facility who worry about paying their bills. Kyrsten Thornhill, 24, said the price of her schooling actually leave her wondering just what is so special about the education she’s receiving.

“What’s better about the calibre of our education compared to the rest of the country,” she asked, “or [is the government] just greedy?”

Thornhill also said that she thinks one of the reasons that this is happening is because students here aren’t standing up to tuition increases.

“In Europe, like France for instance, students would be rallying in the streets against this. I think the government knows that it won’t happen here,” she said.

Alison Issac, 19, said that she is almost done her semester, and that she’s about to go on to her field placement — a placement that she says she’ll have to pay full fees for, even though she won’t be on-campus.

“I was pretty upset when I found out,” she said. Issac added that high tuition means she won’t have the money to go back to school later if she wants to — and that the costs could deter students fresh out of high school from pursuing post-secondary education at all.

“When you’re in high school, you don’t really know what you want to do, so you sign up for a program, realize you don’t like it, and then you end up getting stuck paying back a loan for something that you didn’t even want to do in the first place,” she said.

One option that the federal government is looking at to help students across the country pay back their student loans is a program called the Income Contingent Repayment plan (ICR).

The proposal is that once students finish their post-secondary programs, the government will look at their incomes in the career they studied for — and will base their loan repayments on that.

Canadian Student Federation spokesman Hamid Osman said that the main problem with the plan is that it doesn’t take into account other factors that affect people’s everyday lives.

“It’s the worst thing possible for students and grads because it implies that whatever your job is, that’s what you can afford,” he said. With interest added into the equation, he added, “Students end up paying longer than what they could, and up to two or three times more than they should have.”

Osman also said that the ICR program would be rife with sexual discrimination because, statistically, women don’t make as much as men in our economy.

“There are pay equity issues here in Canada,” he said. “For every dollar a man makes, a woman make 76 cents. So right off the bat there is discrimination in the ICR program.”

The president of the Centennial College Student Association (CCSAI), Vishal Member, said that while he thinks the ICR program needs to be a bit more lenient, the association is doing what it can to help the college’s students deal with their debt.

“We have advocacy help and counseling. We also offer alternative repayment solutions,” he said. “How we try to approach this is we want to satisfy each and ever student at the college and try to make sure that all of their concerns will be voiced.”