May 3rd, 2021
TORONTO - On Friday, April 30th, the Ontario government announced a one-year extension of the 2020-2021 tuition freeze. While this decision is meant to increase affordability for students, it does not do enough to address the exacerbated financial concerns faced by students this year. OUSA asks that the provincial government complement the tuition freeze by investing in increased operating grants to institutions and OSAP funding for students who need it most.
“This past year has been especially difficult for students who are facing greater and more complex financial challenges as a result of COVID-19 and the high cost of their education,” said Julia Pereira, OUSA President. “Students need direct financial support, and while a tuition freeze may broadly benefit all students, it doesn't provide adequate support for students with the most financial need.”
A tuition freeze without increasing funding to the post-secondary education sector disproportionately impacts international students. International students pay significantly higher tuition compared to their domestic counterparts.The 2019-20 tuition reduction and 2020-21 tuition freeze – which was not supplemented by an increase in operating grants – placed an increased reliance on raising international student fees and recruiting more international students. In 2020-21, the average cost of tuition per year in Ontario for international students was $40,724, while the cost for domestic students was $7,938.
The high costs of post-secondary education in tandem with the financial downfalls from the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the need for increased operating grants from the provincial government to promote high-quality education. Students have voiced their concerns about the declining quality of education, which has been especially salient in the shift to online learning. Without increased operating grants, a tuition freeze will impact the quality of education and fail to provide a comprehensive solution to alleviate financial burden for students.
“Students need a transparent and predictable tuition fee structure to be able to plan for their financial obligations and make informed decisions about their ability to afford their education,” said Nathan Barnett, Vice-President HR at OUSA and Vice-President University Affairs at the Trent-Durham Student Association. “We are concerned about the timing of Friday’s announcement, which came on the final day before the expiration of the Tuition Fee Framework and left many of our students in the dark.”
Even with a tuition freeze, the high cost of post-secondary education leaves many primarily reliant on financial aid, including OSAP. Students need direct, effective, needs-based financial support and the current OSAP framework is insufficient to meet student need, especially given the significant income disruptions experienced by students and their families as a result of COVID-19. OUSA has consistently advocated for the provincial government to expand eligibility requirements and increase funding available through OSAP and the Indigenous Student Bursary Program to address the financial barriers and challenges students face. According to the provincial government’s recently announced fiscal plan and outlook, there was a $400M reduction in program spending in OSAP from 2019-2020 to 2020-2021 . Given the increased financial precarity many students are facing, the government should be increasing investments into OSAP, not reducing expenditures for this important program.
OUSA will continue to advocate for increased investments in post-secondary education through fairer cost sharing models and increases to student financial aid. To learn more about OUSA’s recommendations for post-secondary affordability, read our submission to the Ministry of Colleges and Universities on Tuition and Affordability, here, and our recommendations to enhance OSAP in our 2021 pre-budget submission, here.
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About: OUSA represents the interests of 150,000 professional and undergraduate, full-time and part-time university students at eight student associations across Ontario. Our vision is for an accessible, affordable, accountable, and high quality post-secondary education in Ontario.
Communications and Operations Coordinator
Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance
416-341-9948 |[email protected]
1 Peter Bethlenfalvy, Ontario’s Action Plan: Protecting People’s Health and Our Economy (Toronto, ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario, 2021), 174, https://budget.ontario.ca/2021/pdf/2021-ontario-budget-en.pdf.