The Canadian Federation of Students (Ontario) has accused the Liberal government of “broken promises” and misleading voters about who would be eligible for a substantial new tuition credit.
But Glen Murray, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, tells On Campus that the CFS-O are “the only people who seem confused.”
The Liberals, who were re-elected to a minority government on Oct. 6, campaigned on a new tuition grant amounting to $1,600 per year for university students and $730 for college students.
Today, the CFS-O issued a statement saying the Liberals misled students because the grant only applies to full-time undergraduates and college students in first-entry programs who are from families that make under $160,000 per year.
According to CFS-O’s statistics, there are 920,000 students in Ontario when everyone, including part-time students, graduate students and those in professional programs are added in. But only about one-third of those—310,000—will get the new tuition cheques or credits this year.
That’s hardly the “30 per cent across-the-board cut,” indicted in the Liberal’s platform, they say.
Not only did the details not reach voters, argues the CFS-O, but that’s less fair than the 13 per cent tuition cut for everyone that the nearly $500-million program could have purchased.
Families may indeed have been confused if all they read was the Liberal platform. It said this about the grants: “We’re going to support all middle-class Ontario families with a 30 per cent across-the-board post-secondary undergraduate tuition grant. That means—every year—the families of five out of six students will save $1600 per student in university and $730 per student in college.”
The document made it clear they were talking about undergraduates and families who make less than $160,000, but part-timers, mature students and those studying out-of-province had to go elsewhere to find out they were ineligible.
“In some cases, they explained the details,” says Nora Loreto, spokesperson for CFS-O. “But that message wasn’t getting through to the average person.” She knows that because parents have been calling her office frequently, trying to figure out why their children aren’t eligible. She says many Ontarians assumed that tuition was being reduced by 30 per cent for most students, because that’s the message they got from campaigning Liberals in newspaper articles and brochures.
Still, Minister Murray defended the alleged lack of clarity. “We did not include the application form in the platform, no,” he said. “But if you’d talked to the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance or the College Alliance, it was very clear.”
The details are also something he says Liberals discussed “over and over again” on the campaign trail. “Under $160,000? Check. High school in the last four years? Check. First-entry college or university? Check,” says Murray. “The only people that seem confused are the CFS,” he says.
Some Ontarian families may beg to differ.