University of Guelph students give McGuinty the shirts off their backs as part of the campaign to "Drop Fees"

    GUELPH, ON, Oct. 29 /CNW/ - University of Guelph students marched to
MPP Liz Sandals' office today with a 100 foot line of t-shirts - the shirts
off their backs - to deliver the McGuinty Government its dirty laundry.
    Each t-shirt had a personal, hand-written message for Dalton McGuinty
about the negative impact of high tuition fees, crushing student debt and low
per-student government funding. One t-shirt read: "My debt $20,000 + My Wife's
debt $55,000 + Two Kids = $75,000 in debt and no house."
    2009 is the last year of the McGuinty government's "Reaching Higher"
framework for tuition fee increases. This policy authorizes annual tuition
hikes of 4 to 8 per cent per year, and could mean as much as a 36% compound
increase over four years.
    "McGuinty's Reaching Higher plan cancelled the tuition fee freeze and
increased student loan amounts, plunging students deeper into debt," said
Megan Nicholson, Vice President External of the University of Guelph's
Graduate Students' Association. "Today, the average student debt for a
four-year degree is fast approaching $28,000 and we're asking the government
to convert a portion of every student loan into a grant."
    The Ontario government plans to increase graduate student enrolment from
12,000 to 14,000 by 2009-2010. However, with an expansion of graduate spaces,
students face greater competition for the same number of supervising faculty,
scholarships, and research grants. "The Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) is
one of very few provincial forms of financial relief for graduate students who
face the highest fees in Canada," said Aaron Massecar, President of the
Graduate Students' Association. "With only 2,000 of these scholarships
available, only 5 per cent of graduate students receive grants from McGuinty."
    Graduate student retention rates in some Canadian universities range from
34 to 54 percent. High tuition fees, the lack of funding, and debt servicing
issues contribute to the problem of attrition. The unacceptably high rates of
attrition mean a lost investment by the system and students, as well as loss
of skilled innovators for the labour market.
    On November 5, 2008, Guelph students will hold a rally on campus as part
of the Student Day of Action to Drop Fees organised by the Canadian Federation
of Students.

For further information:

For further information: Megan Nicholson, Guelph GSA VP External, (647)
938-9314 (cell); Aaron Massecar, Guelph GSA President, (519) 831-9876 (cell);
Cailey Campbell, External Affairs Commissioner, Central Student Association,
(519) 835-4795 (cell)

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