Student concerns promoted
By Sandra Dimitrakopoulos
Tuition hikes may be old news but a press conference held by students at Queen's Park Tuesday tried to bring the issue to the forefront.
Five thousand signatures were presented by members of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance in an attempt to highlight the issues of funding to universities, rising tuition fees and flaws in a proposed income-continent loan repayment program, said Sam Castiglione, VP-student issues for Western's University Students' Council.
The petition is part of the "Big Book Campaign" from the 1996-97 school year. Hopefully, it will make an impact on the provincial government which has not kept their promises to students, Castiglione said.
Castiglione highlighted issues at the conference including the concern that students have to pay a greater share for their education than the Tory government first promised.
"The Conservatives first promised that students would only have to cover 25 per cent of their cost of education yet they are now paying 35 per cent," Castiglione said.
He also addressed the media about the argument that Canadian students should not complain because American students have to pay considerably more for their education. "Only four per cent of American students go to non-publicly funded post-secondary institutions, yet the other 96 per cent attend schools with tuitions similar to those in Canada," Castiglione said.
Barry McCartan, executive director of OUSA, said he was pleased with the outcome of the press conference. "We wanted to raise awareness on the issues and the fact we believe the Tory plan is deeply flawed," McCartan said.
McCartan suggests following repayment plans like those in Australia which offer students loans to be paid back with no interest and in an unlimited time period.
But Tom Froese, parliamentary assistant to the Minister for colleges and universities in the Ministry of Education and Training said holding a press conference was the wrong approach to take.
"I think it is always good to bring up concerns but press conferences of this type don't help the cause at all," he said. "It is when you sit down with the decision-makers that you really get a bang for your buck."
He added there were assumptions made at the press conference about certain aspects of the government program, such as a loan repayment method which may not be in a final proposal.