Volume 92, Issue 25

Tuesday, October 20, 1998

coughing up debt


Liberals send student messages

By Dave Yasvinski
Gazette Staff

Western made its contribution to the Ontario Liberal party's postcard campaign yesterday in the form of 1,500 cards presented by Western's Young Liberals to David Caplan, Liberal critic for youth and training.

The campaign is part of a province-wide effort by the Liberal party, asking students to fill out postcards indicating their present debt load, in an attempt to call attention to the state of the post secondary financial situation. The postcards will be presented to Premier Mike Harris in the House of Commons in about two weeks.

"We want to highlight these issues to Mike Harris," Caplan said. "We want to present these to the House and demand they take action."

Caplan said the postcards collected from Western came mostly from first and second-year students and represent a collective debt load of $20 million.

"It's obvious what has happened. As Harris has made cuts, students have had to make up for shortfalls – there's no way we can keep going in this direction," he said.

Although the Liberals have yet to release their entire platform for the next election, Caplan said they intend to put a freeze on tuition increases and reregulate some deregulated programs, placing tuition control back in the hands of the government.

"It will no longer be left to the universities to decide. The Liberal Party will play a role in determining what level they will be at," he said.

Rob Savage, spokesperson for the Ministry of Education and Training, said this campaign is a bit hypocritical. "Tuition went up when Caplan's party was in power as well."

Savage said at least universities are being made accountable for any tuition increases they make now. "Where any university is looking at increasing tuition, they must submit a plan to show how quality will increase – this is not something that occurred when the Liberals were in power," he said. "This looks more like a political campaign than any serious attempt to address student issues."

Anything which increases public and government awareness of the student debt load is effective, said Nick Iozzo, University Students' Council's VP-education. "Even if [the postcard campaign] generates a little interest, it is better than no interest at all."

Iozzo said if anything, the provincial government is moving in the opposite direction than students need it to be. "The federal government provides us with the millennium fund and it looks like the province is using this to cut [Ontario Student Assistance Plan] funding," he said.

While he was unsure the postcard campaign would prove immediately effective, Iozzo said the effect will become apparent around election time. "It will make sure that post secondary education is highlighted in all three campaigns."

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Copyright The Gazette 1998