Students march for more tuition assistance

A student union representative says Ontario’s new tuition grant falls short of college and university students’ needs.

Hundreds of students from across the GTA joined the annual National Day of Action, Wednesday at Queen’s Park. They protested the 30-per-cent tuition grant. Some chanted, “We don’t want no mac and cheese; come on Dalton drop our fees!”

The tuition grant, introduced by Premier Dalton McGuinty during the last provincial election, means that a $1,600 grant will go to an estimated 310,000 recipients, about one-third of Ontario’s post-secondary student population.

Shaun Shepherd, vice-president external of the University of Toronto Student Union, doesn’t think the grant goes far enough.

“Funding is … coming from siphoning from other grants in existence, like the Queen Elizabeth II scholarship program and the technology and textbook grant,” he said.

Under the new legislation, qualified students must be studying full-time, enrolled in a first-entry program, have a family income lower than $160,000 and be no more than four years out of high school. Graduate and international students are not eligible for the grant. Third-year philosophy student John Allaster, 24, does not qualify since his parents’ income is above the ceiling.

“It’s disappointing, but I know what I signed up for,” he said. “(However) when I put it in comparison with other countries, like for example, the United States, it’s rather astounding how much cheaper (our tuition) is.”

Second-year political science major Andrew Ryan was overjoyed to learn he’ll be receiving $1,600 in the mail. He works part-time in a theatre to pay his $12,500 yearly living expense.

“I’m pretty impressed that (the government) was able to roll this out so fast,” he added.

Shepherd, who’s also ineligible, admitted that despite the grant’s limited reach, it’s the start of a better future in education. U of T Student Union figures indicate that the Ontario government spends $10,222 per post-secondary student, or about $5,595 less mthan the national average.