Last June, Rachel Chen graduated from Glenforest Secondary School in Mississauga. Completing Grade 12, she had difficulty finding the money to pay for her college application.
“When we were doing the actual application where you had to apply for post-secondary school, it was very discouraging,” she said. “Just to actually put your application through is $80.”
At the time, Chen, 18, contemplated putting the application process off for a year, because she couldn’t afford to pay the fee, let alone the tuition.
That could change if the Liberals are re-elected to govern Ontario on Oct. 6. Chen recently found out about the 30 per cent post-secondary tuition grant for full-time students that the Liberals have proposed in their election platform.
If elected, the Liberals will automatically apply the grant towards the tuition of undergraduate and college students coming from lower-class and middle-class families. They plan to introduce the tuition grant on Jan. 1, 2012, said Annette Phillips, a spokesperson for the Ontario Liberal Party.
Chen currently studies in a para-legal program at Toronto’s Herzing College and works at a Cineplex theatre. She can afford to go to school this year only because the college has agreed to help her with paying the tuition. Receiving an additional grant from the government would do a lot in helping her situation further.
“Every little bit helps,” Chen said.
The associate registrar of student financial services at Centennial College, Scherry George, said that reducing tuition by 30 per cent would make a significant difference for students.
“It’s a cut in tuition; it’s less money they’re paying. For the students on OSAP, that’s less loans they have to incur,” she said.
At Centennial College, the percentage of students on the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) fluctuates between 55 per cent and 65 per cent each year, George said.
At universities, however, about 30 per cent of students rely on OSAP, she said.
Apart from helping students financially, George believes the proposed grant would improve the post-secondary experience for many. She knows that, by having lower tuition payments, students wouldn’t need to work as many hours.
“A lot of students now, because they are so involved in working so hard, don’t have time to experience the experience of post-secondary,” George said. “They’re here, they (get) their grades and they run home because they have to get to work.”
Chen doesn’t receive financial aid from her parents and has had to struggle with going to school, working and making enough money to provide for herself.
“Every pay cheque I get, I basically I have to divide,” Chen said. “So you have to pay your rent, your living costs, your food, transportation… and then to still have money left over for spending money and have money to put in your savings account for school, it’s hard.”