Student leaders representing over 140,000 undergraduate and professional students are traveling to Queen’s Park to meet with Premier Kathleen Wynne, Deputy Premier Deb Matthews, and the Opposition Leader Jim Wilson (as well as party critics, MPPs, and Ministers) Representatives from the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) will sit in more than sixty meetings and ask for improved front-line student health support, streamlined student financial aid, and improved access to work-integrated learning opportunities.
Student advocates are asking for the government to focus education spending on students who are most in need; specifically, to cease issuing education tax credits and redirect those savings into existing student financial aid programs. Jen Carter, President of OUSA, argues that tax credits most benefit high-income students and their parents, instead of low-income students most burdened by debt.
“We want the Ontario government to invest in education, but we especially want the government to be smart in how they make those investments,” says Carter. “The Government of Ontario is spending 340 million on tax credits, which simply don’t help the students who are most in need of financial assistance. OUSA has proposals- like removing interest from student loans, increasing the OSAP living allowance- that could serve as a much more effective alternatives for improving student accessibility.”
Additionally, students are calling for targeted funding for front-line health support for students, ideally with the creation of campus community health teams. University-aged students have elevated need for mental health services, among other unique health needs. By centralizing care, students believe that both wait times and confusion around service referrals could be drastically reduced.
“Especially in light of recent media coverage about sexual assault on campuses, the need for front line support and counseling services on campuses is pressing,” says Rodrigo Narro Perez, OUSA Steering Committee member and Vice President Education at McMaster University. “Our proposal to create campus health teams would create a “one-stop shop” for all the health and mental health services students need as well as alleviate the demand for a much-needed resource.”
In addition to financial accessibility and health care, student representatives are lobbying for government to invest in more in-study work-integrated learning, like co-ops, paid internships, and service learning. They will be advocating in Queen’s Park until Wednesday of this week.