OPIRG Peterborough’s Response to Government Cuts to OSAP

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By now you may have heard of this announcement from the Doug Ford government: they are planning to lower tuition by 10%, starting September 2019. While this announcement was illustriously described as “making postsecondary education more affordable through historic reforms, [and] refocusing supports to the families who need it most” by Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, the announcement ultimately avoided how they were also drastically cutting the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) and threatening the existence of many fees/organizations that provide jobs and services to students and families who need it.

One of the most significant cuts to OSAP would be the elimination of the free tuition program, which, for eligible students with parents who earn $50 000 or less in annual income, gives non-repayable grants covering the average amount of tuition. Katie Swyers, who wrote an article in The Eyeopener — a Ryerson University independent student newspaper — would be given an extra $807 as a result of the 10% tuition deduction, but would lose $8302 because of the eradication of the free tuition program.

Swyers goes on to mention that some of the services and organizations that are being threatened included one of their places of employment; as a result, Swyer will have more debt. This will be the reality for many other students, especially international students as the tuition reduction will not apply to them — many may not be able to afford to attend post-secondary institutions at all.

OPIRG Peterborough is a refundable non-profit organization that does research, education, and action on social and environmental justice issues. This organization is one of the fees that may be deemed as ‘non-essential.’ What you may not know about OPIRG Peterborough is that we offer a variety of employment, placement, and volunteer opportunities for students and community members. We also provide training for students and community members on consensus decision-making and anti-oppression, which look great on resumes and provide a space for networking with like-minded folks.

Not only does OPIRG Peterborough provide those opportunities, but we also offer services through our Green Dishes and Free Market programs. Green Dishes is a dish lending program that reduces waste at community events. Often, we provide this service for free to folks that cannot afford even the lending cost, thus ensuring that those who want to work towards preserving the environment can do just that.

The Free Market program collects donations and gives them back for free during our Free Market hours, beside our office. Yes, the clothing, books (including Trent textbooks), shoes, and kitchen items are all free.

OPIRG Peterborough has also been involved in starting other groups like The Seasoned Spoon, which is a non-profit, vegetarian, cooperative café. Moreover, we collaborate with many groups and organizations to provide the community with events such as our annual Vegan BBQ, Free Market Giveaway, Disorientation Week, and more. All of these opportunities and services for students and community members are made possible through the money we receive from students.

While details of what will be implemented by the government are still uncertain, thousands of students, community members, and organizations have taken to the streets and spread information on the implications of these changes. In Peterborough, there is a large coalition being formed to organize, create campaigns, and meet with the local government. Like many others, OPIRG Peterborough will continue to fight with you for a better post-secondary education system.