Loan rumours rain on yesterday's parade
By Sandra Dimitrakopoulos
Positive statements made yesterday by the Council of Ontario Universities and Scotiabank regarding the future of post-secondary education may be overshadowed by rumours of the provincial government's plan to decrease the number of students eligible for financial assistance.
The recommendations gathered were the result of a summit held in November on the future of post-secondary education attended by university presidents and prominent business leaders. The suggestions were sent in a letter yesterday to Ontario Premier Mike Harris signed by COU chair Robert Prichard and Western chancellor Peter Godsoe, who is also chief executive officer of Scotiabank.
Five areas of policy were detailed in the letter, including university funding, student assistance, research, tuition fees and public accountability.
These recommendations specifically ask the government to reinvest in Ontario universities, continue working on student assistance reform, form a provincial policy on research, shift the responsibility of setting tuition fees to university boards of governors and to lessen the requirements imposed on universities.
The release of these aims coincided with a meeting yesterday of the Standing Committee of Finance where Prichard and Western President Paul Davenport made a presentation on these issues, said COU spokesperson David Scott.
"We had the info. at hand so we decided to use today's event as a leap-off point," Scott said. "We realize we need more partners on our side including students, faculty and community leaders like Godsoe."
These recommendations were mainly a university initiative, however, Scotiabank was involved in order to give the initiative business credibility, said Scotiabank spokesperson Patti Jordan.
University Students' Council VP-student issues Sam Castiglione said discussion of student assistance put forth in the letter to Harris is positive, but very vague which could give the government too much flexibility in their decision.
But regardless of these recommendations, Friday the 13th is rumoured to be the unluckiest day yet for Ontario students as student leaders are expecting an announcement today regarding changes to student aid.
Castiglione said he expects the announcement will involve a plan to reduce student debt, but will do so by reducing the amount loaned to students based on an expectation of higher parental contributions and pre-study income. A new grant system may also be announced but is actually the renaming of the current loan forgiveness program, Castiglione predicted.
"If this happens it will be time to declare war," said acting executive director of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance Rick Martin. "Students will be in the worst position they have ever been in."