TORONTO, April 5, 2012 /CNW/ - The group Ontario and Quebec Students for Free Education is currently occupying Bureau du Québec à Toronto in unconditional support of the Quebec student strike denouncing tuition fee hikes and in favour of free education. It also demands a drastic reduction of tuition fees in Ontario.
For seven weeks now, the Quebec-wide student strike that has suspended classes in universities and CEGEPs throughout the province has been highlighting the illegitimacy of tuition fee hikes proposed by the Charest government. Its demands are similar to those of student groups in Ontario fighting for drastic tuition fee reduction who condemn the Ontario Liberal Party for their empty election promises to reduce tuition fees for the majority of post-secondary students.
While posing an obstacle to accessibility, the hikes are part of a more troubling trend: the marketization of education. Its primary aim is not to improve the quality of education, but to impose a user-payer mentality between the university and its students. This is precisely what Quebec finance minister Raymond Bachand has in mind when he speaks of carrying out a "cultural revolution". How else can we explain his commitment to tuition hikes that will lead to such negative social impacts when it will only raise a mere $190 million in revenue (equivalent to 1.2% of the Ministry of Education's budget)?
After the obstinate refusal of the Quebec provincial government to pay attention to the demands of the student movement, it now proposes an increase in financial assistance to temper the effects of the tuition hikes. However, the plan to raise tuition fees while conceding an increase in bursaries or implementing a system of income-contingent loans reinforces a conception of education as a commodity, as a financial investment. It will have the effect of opening new opportunities for banks to profit from collecting interest and fees at the overwhelming expense of aggravating student indebtedness. "Education is a right, a collective good. Its financing must be assumed collectively, through a system of progressive taxation and through a tax on corporate profits," argues Xavier Lafrance, spokesperson for the group and former representative of CASSEE, a leading student organization during the student strike in Quebec in 2005.
Ontario and Quebec Students for Free Education was formed with the aim of supporting the Quebec student strike and to promote its ideas in Ontario. It is formed of students from both Quebec and Ontario studying at universities throughout the GTA.
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