Our annual Blue Chair awareness campaign is in various stages of completion at our member campuses, and with yesterday’s release of OUSA’sTomorrow’s Tuition: A New Framework for Affordable Higher Education, we’re continuing to have important discussions about access and persistence for Ontario’s students. Blue Chair seeks to raise awareness about those barriers that can keep a student from attending a post-secondary institution; be they informational, motivational, geographical or, a common concern, financial. As we reach out to students at our universities, we hear that many that did make it to school had to overcome very real concerns about being able to afford it, and once in had to make tough choices about balancing work and classes. With cost and debt concerns already a significant barrier to education, it is critical that the next framework for the regulation of tuition put students first and hold affordability and fairness as its core considerations. Students are already facing the legacy of sustained tuition increases above their ability to pay and are often stymied by unfair practices in how tuition is charged as they try to cope.
As the government considers the rate of allowable tuition increases, we ask that they work to preserve and enhance the progress made with introduction of the tuition grant. Similarly, it is important that our universities and colleges work with the government to address some payment practices at their own institutions that punish students who rely on aid disbursement schedules or in study work to pay, or that have forced students to chose between financial assistance or paying for education that they do not receive. There is growing recognition by students, administrations and governments alike that our students are changing. Their ability to pay, the demands on their time, their ability to participate in a traditional “full course load” have changed dramatically, and what is needed is a call to action to reconsider what is fair to today’s student.
What OUSA asks with its Blue Chair campaign is for students to consider the barriers that they might have had to overcome in order to partake in the personally and socially enriching experience of university. We ask that they consider the peers who might not have been so fortunate. And, increasingly, to consider those things that might keep them from successfully completing university. What we’re asking with Tomorrow’s Tuition is for those that we trust to provide an affordable, accessible, accountable and high quality education to do the same.