Article co-written with Boykin Smith.

Photo of Betty Wondimu and her Debt Sentence.
Photo of Betty Wondimu and her Debt Sentence.

There are many challenges facing our post-secondary education system whether you see it, feel it, or not. The truth is, accessing post-secondary education is becoming more and more difficult. In Canada, tuition fees have nearly doubled since 1999, more than twice the rate of inflation while funding for post-secondary institutions has been cut. Students are now picking up the tab for the difference. And it’s only getting worse.

It’s no secret that the province of Ontario has the highest average tuition fees of any Canadian province, and provincial legislative frameworks such as the Reaching Higher Framework ensure that these fees will keep rising per year.

The Ontario 2012 FY budget saw $12M in funding cuts to post-secondary education, with one of the largest cuts coming to the Ontario Work Study Program (OWSP), a program that many students rely on to find employment to pay for school. The most recent Ontario 2014 FY budget saw absolutely no mention of additional funding to post-secondary education.

Today, in real dollars, Ontario spends less on post-secondary education per student than two decades ago and continues to have the lowest per-student funding in the country, 24 percent below the Canadian average.

Higher tuition means higher debt with upfront costs and a lifetime of loans acting as a major barrier for new students. Today students have to take on part-time work to help fund their living expenses and education which puts a strain on their academic performances. Tuition fees not only dramatically affect current students, as potential students are also restricted from participating within post-secondary education due to high financial barriers.

For those who do take the plunge, low wage jobs and high debt loads will make it harder to start a family, buy a home, start a small business, or serve their community.

The Canadian Federation of Students Ontario will be entering into the ‘red’ under “The Hikes Stop Here” campaign. Member Locals and student unions, will be taking action on campuses around Ontario to draw attention to this issue.

Beginning in late January, the TCSA will be outreaching and engaging with students on this issue. All students are welcomed to share their stories and testimonies that will help garner attention and spark conversations.

We have worked with Trent University with three strategies; 1) to freeze tuition fees across the board, 2) Write a joint letter encouraging the federal and provincial government to prioritize alleviating the education-related debt loads burdening Canadians; reduce tuition fees through increases in government funding for institutions across Ontario; investigate in an alternative tuition fee framework and encourage an economically competitive work force. 3) Write a joint letter encouraging the provincial government to; regulate international students’ tuition fees and restore post-secondary funding for international students; eliminate UHIP and simultaneously, restore OHIP for international students; continue advocating for immigration policy initiatives and changes to ensure international students’ lives in Canada are easier.

However, while we recognize that these strategies will not be enough, we will show support during the Day of Action (happening on Tuesday March 24, 2015). To demonstrate to the Trent University administration, and the government at large, that students are seriously concerned about rising tuition fees, student debt, and fairness for international students.

It’s no secret, so let’s speak up. Spread the word, and share the facts, and act now. Go to itsnosecret.ca and take the first step or contact the Vice President Campaigns & Equity, Boykin Smith for more information. It starts with us!