By JOEL PERUSSE
The good news for Ontario’s college and university students is they get to keep their 30 per cent tuition rebate.
It’s not all good news for colleges and universities, though. Executives will take a two-year pay freeze, and the professors’ pension contributions will be reduced.
The new Ontario budget released March 27 is neither refreshing nor depressing. Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, utilizing a report by economist Don Drummond, proposed a plan to balance the books by 2018 without raising taxes. It’s a mixed blessing for those who work in the health and education systems.
Ontario’s post-secondary system could see two notable improvements resulting from the proposed budget. Students Needs services could receive funds to financially aid individual applicants to the tune of $11,189, while the 30 per cent tuition rebate would remain in effect. Drummond’s suggested they be removed it from the budget.
“Getting anything back is helpful because schooling can be pretty expensive, and money is a large determining factor for whether many students will finish their programs,” said Kathleen Merritt, a 21-year-old Health and Fitness student.
While some students are happy to see some of their money come back, others are disappointed with the stipulations.
“I understand if your parents make over $160,000, then you shouldn’t get it,” said Matt McDonald, 22, a first-year Police Foundations student.
However, when it comes down to eligibility concerning the time between secondary and post-secondary, he said, “it shouldn’t matter if you’re four, five or 10 years out of high school.”
He said he was not happy to hear he couldn’t get the rebate because he started college “too late.”
Another issue expressed by a former full-time student was the clause forfeiting the rebate when she shifted to a part-time schedule. Kelsey Nixey, a 21-year-old Journalism student, was affected by her decision to drop some classes.
“On paper it looked like I was entitled to it, and I think a lot of students thought they were too, but then you read the fine print. … Suddenly the 30 per cent does not apply to you,” she said. “I feel like everyone deserves something back.”
Eric Silvestri, associate registrar of Admissions and Financial Aid, said the students generally show an attitude of appreciation towards the rebate and he understands the disappointment some feel when their applications are denied.
His main concern is that students understand there are programs in place to help with the monetary challenges of full-time schooling.
“The role of financial aid is to give them other options,”said Silvestri. “The government thinks about 300,000 may be eligible [in Ontario]” and students should take advantage of the program.
McDonald’s younger brother Josh said he didn’t know there was a rebate. He said that it’s “fantastic,” and that any knowledge concerning a rebate never affected his decision to apply at Niagara College.
“I am grateful for the 30 per cent I received.”
While it’s great to see the government investing in the students, Duncan was forced to address the pension issue. The effects will be felt all across the public sector. Duncan said during the proposal that in 2004-08 the government made progress on the pension situation and it is now time to set up proper parameters.
He said he doesn’t want to burden taxpayers with having to contribute to public pensions they have no access to; he plans to work with “broader public pension partners.” Duncan explained these changes would not affect retirees.
The proposal for Ontario’s budget will go to a vote April 25.
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