TORONTO, March 22, 2018 /CNW/ - The Monday, March 19 speech from the throne, delivered by Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdswell on behalf of Kathleen Wynne's Liberal government, emphasized the need to care for Ontarians. While promising significant investments in health care, mental health and education, this passionate speech avoided offering specific financial commitments ahead of the provincial budget announcement next week.
The marked focus on education in this speech included increased support for apprenticeships and guarantees to grow the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) to provide "free tuition" for more students, yet it remains unclear what the changes to OSAP eligibility criteria might be.
Recent changes to OSAP in the fall of 2017 saw existing grants redirected to effectively provide free tuition for low-income students in the form of a single grant that covers the cost of, or majority of the cost of, tuition fees. The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) has lobbied for the expansion of eligibility criteria for this grant to ensure all students, regardless of program or enrolment status are able to receive funding.
"Although today's speech indicated an intention to grow OSAP, it did not identify exactly how OSAP eligibility will be affected. The Federation is cautiously optimistic that more support will be provided for a broader range of students in the form of non-repayable grants but looks to the upcoming provincial budget for concrete commitments, in particular, for part-time students, students in professional programs and international students," said Nour Alideeb, Chairperson of the CFS-Ontario.
Some mention was made in the speech of improving mental health care in schools and communities, however, there were no details regarding what this would look like.
Indigenous students are also left waiting for the provincial budget to see if the provincial government will contribute to First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples' treaty right to education. What was also not included in the speech was any indication of a sustainable long-term strategy to deal with the rising cost of tuition and the impacts of student debt.
"Overall, students should be encouraged by the emphasis the government has placed on improving accessibility to post-secondary education, but critical of the lack of initiative to bring forward proposals for long-term, transformative change in the sector," concluded Nour Alideeb.
The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario is the largest and oldest student organization in Ontario, representing more than 350,000 college and university students in all regions of the province.
SOURCE Canadian Federation of Students
For further information: Nour Alideeb, Chairperson, at 416-925-3825 (office), 647-896-4065 (cellphone) or [email protected]; Ian McRae, Government Relations and Policy Coordinator at 416-925-3825 (office), 306-852-0128 (cellphone) or [email protected]