Parental cash cows: Gov't to give less, asks family to pay more
By Sandra Dimitrakopoulos
A recent announcement by the provincial government is promising less student debt, better program evaluation and a new grant system but student lobby groups aren't buying it.
The announcement made Friday by Education Minister Dave Johnson outlined several initiatives including new measures of eligibility for students seeking financial aid through the Ontario Student Assistance Program.
Under this new measuring-stick-of-need, parental contributions will be, in some cases, almost double what is currently expected per year, which will in turn reduce the total monetary amount of assistance assigned to a student for the year.
"The aim isn't to reduce the amount of the loan but to reduce the total amount you owe," said Ministry spokesperson Daniele Gauvin. "We're not asking students to make a contribution, but asking parents to make a modest contribution."
Executive Director for the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance Rick Martin said there was no consultation with student lobby groups on this plan because the government knew there would be opposition. "They are not serious about educating, but about making money."
Some students have also argued against the new requirements regarding parental contributions including Patricia Zyska, a third-year social science student at Western. "I don't think you can gauge [loan amounts] by the income of someone's parents because it doesn't really depend on that some students pay for school on their own."
Other governmental plans include a new job-ranking system for programs created from information obtained by post-secondary institutions, in addition to graduation and loan default rates.
Gauvin said the government understands education is an investment and therefore students need as much information as possible in order to make a good decision. Tightening up on repayment of loans is also one of the goals of looking at loan default rates of different programs.
"Although the job-ranking idea is good, we need to look at the motivation for doing this," said Wayne Poirier, Ontario chair for the Canadian Federation of Students, adding it could lead to a reduction in degrees and narrowing choice of programs.
Maclean's magazine is also involved in ranking post-secondary institutions but Assistant Managing Editor Ann Dowsett Johnston said the government is focusing on the notion of post-secondary institutions as job factories, rather than on their preservation as Maclean's does.
"We want to preserve but [the government] wants a tier system," Dowsett Johnston said. "Students already think about jobs after graduation it doesn't need to be legislated for them."
A 'new' granting system was also introduced in which the current loan forgiveness program, which allows students to subtract loans in excess of $7,000 per year at the time of graduation, will now be subtracted on an annual basis.
"They renamed the grant position to get the opposition off their back," said Western's University Students' Council VP-student issues Sam Castiglione. "This whole effort is purely a government initiative to turn public reaction around."
Western administration were unavailable for comment.