Fire Away: Unfair tuition rebate calls for students to take action

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Written by Stephanie Rennie

Last week students experienced a bi-annual blow to their pocket book as they paid for another round of tuition fees. The cost of attending post secondary education has been steadily increasing and has bombarded the average undergraduate student with $35 000 of debt. At the end of this term I will finally get to wear a robe and wave my diploma around, but I have accumulated almost $37 000 of debt and I still have to enter into another program next year to gain any job prospects.

Tuition fees were a hot topic during the provincial election last October. The victorious Liberal Party of Ontario is now introducing a supposed plan to live up to their promise to address the issue of rising tuition costs. A tuition rebate was recently introduced and has resulted in mixed feelings about the overall effectiveness of this policy. The rebate is designed to give qualifying students 30% off of their tuition this semester. Although this rebate is seemingly beneficial to students, it quickly loses its appeal after you read the fine print.

Upon further examination of these specific requirements, many students in need of financial aid are being left out. The qualifications for the rebate are extremely exclusive and leave a majority of students in the dark. Such restrictions result in a complete isolation of mature students, students taking longer than four years to complete their undergraduate degree, or those enrolled in professional studies. 

CSA External Affairs Commissioner Demetria Jackson suggested that it is a good thing that the provincial government is “recognizing something needs to be done,” but that this is just a “band aid solution on something that needs an overall fixing.” The CFS has actively opposed the 30% rebate for selected students and has proposed that 13% rebate for all students would be a better alternative. Jackson agrees that this alternative would reach the entire student body instead of isolating those in need, such as students with divorced parents, those not supported by parental incomes, and others that slip between the cracks.

In response to rising tuition fees, CSA Executive Commissioners Drew Garvie, Demetria Jackson, and Jessica Carter have established a campaign entitled “Fight the Hikes” to get students involved with this ongoing issue.

As co-founder of the campaign and an active voice in student politics, Demetria passionately expresses that one of the major mandates of this upcoming campaign is “to recognize that the University can do things.” Jackson encourages student participation in this campaign and acknowledges that “students need to push the government and decision makers to make proper decisions on our education.”

This isn’t the first time that student leaders at the University of Guelph have rallied together against the rising cost of education. During my time as a U of G student, there have been “Drop Fees” movements that mobilized students to rally in solidarity with secondary school students against overwhelming tuition fees. I remember gathering around the cannon and preparing to march downtown, yet feeling confused as many students just walked by, not phased by the protest and its meaning in their immediate lives.

This issue affects every single student that is feeling unsure about affording rent for the rest of the semester or where money for next week’s groceries are coming from. Student participation is required for any change to be possible. Instead of robotically paying higher fees each semester with no overall improvement to the level of education being offered, students need to recognize that they have a say in their education and that education is a right.

Stephanie Rennie is Editor-in-Chief of thecannon. Fire Away publishes every Thursday in The Cannon and in The Ontarion Student Newspaper at the University of Guelph.

The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question.

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