By AUSTIN GOODER
Students at Niagara College are feeling helpless about the lack of government support they receive while studying here.
Many students across the campus expressed displeasure with how little help they’ve received from the government.
Heather Beattie, a broadcasting student, takes issue with just how few breaks senior students receive.
“As an older student, I’m not even applicable [eligible] for the 30 per cent off tuition,” Beattie says.
A fellow student who studies in the Dental Hygiene program echoed the remark.
“They [the provincial ministry] do have the 30 per cent discount on OSAP [Ontario Student Assistance Program] but it’s only applicable to certain age groups. I’m 26 now and don’t qualify,” says Jessica Odendahl.
Odendahl was recently married and also purchased a home. She spoke at length about her problems with schooling and student loan debt.
“Most people are going to school for a second or third time because there was lots of pressure when they were younger to go to school right away,” Odendahl says.
“If [the government] wants us to start moving forward in life, they kind of have to support us more.”
Odendahl’s program costs nearly $18,000 in the first year and just over $13,000 in the second.
She became visibly upset when talking about just how difficult it has been for her as a mature student.
“Because I’m older I get less support,” she says.
“They say 30 is the new 20, and it’s true, because you just can’t get started on your life that young anymore.”
Lexie Haveman, a Game Development student, wants the government to increase financial assistance for all students.
“I definitely have a food problem. Even if they gave just a small amount on top of our OSAP to help with living expenses, it would help.”
“We’re all spiraling into debt with how much our programs cost.”
Haveman is also concerned with her job outlook. She took umbrage with how students are expected to work and study at the same time.
“It’s ridiculous. To pay for an education you need a job, and to get a job you need an education.”
Alyssa, a student at the school who preferred not to give her last name, is having difficulties finding academic success while the college makes her pay to reduce her course load.
“I wanted to do a reduced course load but I can’t do that without incurring an additional cost,” she says.
“I need a reduced course load so I can actually do well in my classes,” she continues.
“I’d like the extra help but I can’t because they’re making me pay again for the same course. It’s silly.”
With election season reaching its pinnacle, political parties are continuously pumping out new platforms and ideas to help access the student population.
All four of the major parties have released platforms that offer different approaches to the student problem.
The two ridings in which Niagara College’s three campuses are found are running a full slate of candidates, each making different promises in an attempt to lure valuable student votes.
The Liberal Party of Canada, led by Justin Trudeau, is represented locally by Ron Planche [Niagara Falls] and Vance Badawey [Niagara Centre].
The party plans on introducing a program called Learning Passport, should they be elected.
This program would dedicate $1,000 a year to each student in a college, university or vocational program. It also dedicates up to $1,500 a year for students from low-income families.
The New Democratic Party [NDP] led by Tom Mulcair, is running two local candidates in Carolyn Ioannoni [Niagara Falls] and incumbent Malcolm Allen [Niagara Centre].
The NDP’s policy is similar to the Liberals’, although it aims to combat the rising costs of private education by increasing transfer payments to provincial governments which can in turn use the money to fund more students. The NDP also hopes to increase student grant and services funding.
The Conservative Party of Canada [CPC], championed by leader Stephen Harper, is running incumbent Rob Nicholson [Niagara Falls] and Leanna Villella [Niagara Centre].
The CPC’s student platform is more muted than other parties’, but its emphasis is on students who serve in rural or underserved areas across the country after they graduate.
Students who practice in their field while serving underserviced communities can expect to receive some level of debt forgiveness from the government, although the actual dollar amount is not immediately clear.
The Green Party of Canada, Elizabeth May’s party, is running Steven Soos [Niagara Falls] and David Clow [Niagara Centre] locally.
The Green Party promises to eliminate tuition to post-secondary institutions. It also hopes to retroactively help students who have already graduated by offering different levels of debt forgiveness for those who borrowed from the government to fund their education.
For Beattie, her decision on which candidate to vote for hasn’t been made yet, though she says that the government must do more for her and for all students.
As a reminder, students concerned with their outlook or who are planning to vote should check their registry status for this election at https://ereg.elections.ca/CWelcome.aspx?lang=e.
Proof of Residence forms, which can be used as identification at polling stations, can be printed from http://www.elections.ca/id/EC50053_e.pdf.
Election job opportunities for students
Elections Canada is hiring people as young as 16. If you are a student looking for some extra cash you might want to consider applying for a poll worker position for the October 19th Federal election day or the advance polling days from the 19th – 12th. The positions available are: deputy returning officer, poll clerk, information officer, registration officer and central poll supervisor. You can make up to $600. To apply for a position or to get more information go to elections.ca and click on the employment tab.