‘Free’ tuition pitch a worry

The Canadian Press
Allison Jones

TORONTO—Premier Kathleen Wynne says she worried about her government pitching a new student grant program as providing “free” tuition since there are caveats.
The Liberal government announced in its recent budget that it is combining existing programs to create an Ontario Student Grant, which would pay for average college or university tuition for students from families with incomes of $50,000 or less.
But in a question-and-answer session with student leaders on Tuesday, Wynne was asked why the program is being marketed as free tuition when students who qualify still would have to incur some costs.
It is expected that students still will pay $3,000 toward their overall costs, such as their living expenses, to supplement the tuition grant.
“I have worried about the same thing; that it’s free with some explanation required,” Wynne replied.
“I think at the same time if we’re talking about tuition, average tuition, the grant will cover that, so that will be free.”
The language around the new grant likely will “evolve,” she added.
The $3,000 figure was arrived at because staff determined it was a “reasonable amount” that a student could make at a summer job, the premier noted.
Under the new program, half of students from families with incomes of $83,000 will qualify for non-repayable grants to cover their tuition and no student will receive less than they currently can receive.
The government is defining average college tuition as $2,768 and average university tuition as $6,160, for arts and science programs.
Wynne conceded the Ontario Student Grant is targeted at full-time students, and not part-time ones.
“I don’t think we actually have the plan for part-time students that we need,” she remarked.
“There are some supports in place through the Canada Student Assistance Grants, but I think that there’s more that we have to do.”
Wynne also acknowledged there are calls from some corners for free tuition for every student.
She said she was open to the discussion, but at the moment the government can pay for the new student grant through combining several programs and eliminating some tax credits.
“In an ideal world, we might actually move there,” Wynne noted.
“I don’t know at this point how we would do that.”