Budgeting for the future of students
By Sara Marett
Disappointed with the recent announcements from the provincial government regarding post-secondary education, Western's administration is now looking forward to next week's federal budget for some positive news.
VP-academic Greg Moran said he is hard-pressed to find anything which actually helps students in the provincial government's changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program announced last Friday.
Included are changes to eligibility for student loans based on family income and assets, changes to the loan forgiveness system and the amount of information provided by individual universities on graduates, including their employment and loan default rates.
Moran referred to the announcement as an embarrassment on behalf of the provincial government and said the entire administration shares the students' disappointment with changes to student aid. "We see this as a withdrawal of student support [on the behalf of the government] more students will be adversely affected by these changes."
He added he is concerned about the government's quest for further information on the employment of graduates and said this may lead to a ranking of programs.
The value of an education should not be qualified just by what kind of job a graduate gets that is only one small part of the total picture, Moran said.
The administration will be anticipating better news in the federal budget next Tuesday, he said. "We now have to cross our fingers and hope for a much better announcement next week."
The federal government plans to introduce the details of its Canadian Millenium Scholarship Fund expected to be implemented in the year 2000 in their budget. The fund is expected to be between $1-3 billion to help low and moderate-income students attend post-secondary institutions.
Recently, there has been some conflict from Quebec regarding the fund, as the province feels the federal government is invading the provinces' responsibility of educational concerns. "The Prime Minister received a letter today from Premier Bouchard expressing his concern, but he has not yet replied," said Jennifer Lang, press secretary for Jean Chrétien.
Lang explained Chrétien will be speaking with all of the provinces regarding the scholarship fund and expects all to cooperate with the initiative.
Hoops Harrison, national director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, said there definitely will be questions and concerns regarding Quebec and the Millenium fund during the budget. "The problem is Quebec already has a needs-based system and they may say, 'Give us our portion of the funds and let us deal with it'."
Harrison said some of the other issues he expects to see come out of the budget concerning education include debt reduction, tax amendments, increases to research granting councils and a new student loan plan modelled after CASA's Income-Based Remission program. "We expect the government's program to be 85 per cent of what we recommended to them we're ecstatic."