Provincial budget lends little to students
BY DAVE YASVINSKI
The announcement of last week's provincial budget may have disappointed many students who were hopeful the government would make substantial moves towards helping alleviate student debt.
While the May 5 budget allocated $300 million to post secondary institutions, most of this money will be put towards funding high-technology programs such as computer science and engineering. The issue of introducing a better student loan system was not addressed.
Daniele Gauvin, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education and Training, said an effort was made to address the problem of increasing student debt. "We tried to work with banks but they weren't interested in a no-interest income contingent loan plan," she said.
Gauvin added the province wants to start its own loan program and combine it with the Canada Millenium Scholarship Foundation set to start in the year 2000. "We want to work with the feds because it's becoming harder and harder to work with the banks," she said.
This plan would involve combining Ontario's share of the Foundation with funds the province currently administers. "At the moment there are no new dollars but the focus is on grants and not debt," Gauvin said.
Western President Paul Davenport said he was pleased with several of the initiatives in the budget but was concerned by the absence of a commitment to reinvest in the student loan system. He added while he felt it was necessary to invest in the high-technology programs, it would have been nice to see money go to other areas as well.
"I wish there had been more broadly-based money," he said.
Ian Armour, University Students' Council president, said the problem is there is no new money for students. "This was not a good budget we were hoping for something to take the burden off students," he said.
While understanding the need to remain competitive in high-tech programs, Armour said he would have also liked to have seen a commitment for student loan repayment. "In a broad sense, things made sense but as president I have to say I'm extremely disappointed."
Wayne Poirier, Ontario chair for the Canadian Federation of Students feels the government has continually demonstrated post secondary education is not a priority for them. "This really is a bad news budget post secondary students were ignored," he said.
Poirier added the government is looking for short-term answers and short-term solutions, neither of which help solve the problems. "In reality, schools were basically cut once again," he said.