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Fire Away: University shouldn't be a debt sentence

Thursday, September 22, 2011

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  • Many students are finishing their degrees with a debt of $30 000 or more

    Many students are finishing their degrees with a debt of $30 000 or more

Written by Stephanie Rennie

Though the beginning weeks of the semester are filled with warm weather and smiling students that have not yet reverted to wearing pajamas and taking up residency in the library, the first weeks of school also mark daunting tuition deadlines.

If you are among the many University students experiencing the familiar feeling this time of year that comes with waiting hours in the OSAP line and watching your bank account plummet, you are far from alone.

We all know this experience too well. Sitting on the couch reading a hundred dollar textbook as the lights flicker, reminding you that your hydro bill has to be paid and your stomach slowly begins to growl.

For the past four years during my time at the University of Guelph I have found myself in the OSAP line for hours on end, surrounded by students in desperate need of financial assistance. While I am fortunate to have the opportunity to receive OSAP, because my studies rely on such funding, I cannot help but feel overwhelmed by the debt accumulated by myself and the student body in such a short period of time.

Instead of entering the workforce with a clean slate, many students are starting their futures in the negative. It is unsettling to conceptualize years of hard work to pay off an enormous debt after a mere four years.

But this issue is only worsening. Tuition fees are skyrocketing and students are being forced to blindly pay such fees to stay in their programs. This year alone, tuition increased 4.3 per cent for full-time undergraduate students at Canadian universities. This astronomic number is nearly forty percent above inflation and is causing students across the nation to sink further into the pit of debt.

Undergraduate students in Ontario have the highest tuition rates in the entire nation and are subjected to annual increases. Such a disparity between tuition fees in Ontario and in other provinces is unjustifiable. The quality of education in Ontario is certainly not superior to the education provided in the rest of Canada.

As students, we must not complacently pay our tuition fees as if they were another bill to be paid off. This year, our tuition deadline fell just three weeks before Ontario citizens have a chance to vote in the Provincial Election.

Last Spring, Guelph students rallied together in solidarity to express their political views and made a promise that the student population would be heard as their voices took the form of an X on a ballot.

The University of Guelph organized a vote mob on Saturday September 10th to not only express the need for students to vote, but also to vocalize imperative issues.

On October 6th, we have an obligation to ourselves and to the province to vote. It is easy to voice your frustration about issues like tuition fees, but we actually have a chance to mobilize and decide our futures, a future that I would like to be debt free.

Provincial Election candidates are clearly facing pressure from post-secondary students as each party has incorporated strategies on dealing with tuition fees into their platforms.

The New Democratic Party has promised a four-year freeze of college and university tuition fees to prevent fees from escalating further during this period of time. The Green Party has also incorporated a tuition freeze into their platform to assist students. The Liberal Party has promised to implement a tuition grant to reduce tuition costs for lower and middle-income families. The Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario has released their plan to increase the number of students that are entitled to OSAP. The platform of the Communist Party of Ontario states that undergraduates in Ontario could all enjoy free university by discontinuing the enormous cuts to corporate taxes each year.

These are just glimpses into the platform of each party. Become informed on each party’s plan for your future as a student and VOTE. Otherwise, in semesters to come, we will once again find ourselves in debt and in the dark.

 

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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  1. Posted by: GavinA on Sep 27, 2011 @ 3:47pm

    Also remember to look into the fine print of these campaign pledges.

    The NDP/Green party pledge does not include room for growth and has been estimated to cost much more than budgeted. The Council of Ontario Universities (COU) has actually stated this would negatively impact the University sector.

    The Liberal Grant would go straight to the University, which some view as acceptable but others view has a negative aspect.

    The PC’s have indicated they would like to increase OSAP eligibility but also consider the UK model that would un-regulate tuition and cause a substantial increase.

    This really is a critical platform point for students to consider but it is also very complicated. Ask as many questions as you can to ensure an informed vote is made.

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