Volume 91, Issue 86

Thursday, March 12, 1998

3,770 strong and growing


A proposed education reform

Re: Tabled federal budget

To the Editor:
Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien have finally done it. Under the glare of the cameras and the media spotlight, the Liberals announced the first 'balanced' budget in 30 years. They have slain the deficit 'dragon' and now it's time to make us forget the past and buy us gullible students off.

Let's be clear here. The Millennium Scholarship Foundation is not about education. Just like the relentless butt-kissing that I witnessed between Joe Fontana and Michael Rubinoff at their education forum, it's about politics.

In 1995, the Liberals cancelled the Canada Scholarships Program even though it only cost $6 million per year. Now, they've got their own scholarship fund. Paul Martin and the Liberals have decided that rather than deal with the very real problems of this country, they're going to build monuments to themselves.

Education is the hot issue today, so naturally the Liberals had to address it. But what does this plan REALLY mean for students? The answer is not a whole lot.

Fontana, at his 'Town Hall' meeting on Feb. 4, stated that the Liberals had 'only' cut $800 million from education funding to the province of Ontario. Yet, the Millennium Scholarship Foundation only provides $325 million nation-wide! Who gets that money is still up in the air. Fontana was unable to answer the question of what mix of 'merit' and 'need' would be used to get one of these scholarships. In any case, 94 per cent of students will be left without help and will continue to accumulate massive student debts.

And even for those students who qualify, what significant help does it give? A grant of $3,000 barely dents the average debt load of $20,000! The scholarship is still taxable after the first $500. And if you're planning on going to a private institution, forget it. You're not eligible. There will be no remission of debt although you will be able to claim a tax deduction for interest payments on student loans.

As part of the sickening display of political back-slapping that took place at the 'Town Hall' meeting, Fontana thanked Rubinoff for letting him steal Rubinoff's 'idea' for making interest payments on student loans tax-deductible. Give me a break! The idea's been floating around for the last 10 years and has been in the Reform Party platform right from the beginning. It's not even that big a deal when one considers the bigger problem of rising tuition costs and student debt loads.

The politicians can continue to play their little games and spout their flowery promises but at the end of the day, unless real reform takes place in our education system, we're not interested.

Pablo Frank
UWO Young Reformers

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