By Becky Somerville
The University Students' Council and the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance are encouraged by yesterday's announcement by the NDP that it would roll back college and university tuition levels if elected but some unanswered questions remain.
According to the announcement, the NDP promises to reverse the existing government policy of deregulated tuition and reduce existing tuition levels by 10 per cent, explained leader Howard Hampton.
"All of those tuitions that the government has deregulated would be re-regulated at the level they were at last year," Hampton said. Those fees increased this year would be cut by 10 per cent, he added.
To compensate for the reduced tuition revenue to universities, the NDP promises to increase government funding to both colleges and universities by $140 million.
"It's wrong to dramatically increase tuition the way Harris has in order to finance an income tax scheme that only benefits those with the highest income in the province," Hampton said. "We should be putting the money where it will do the most good."
Hampton said the pending roll back would improve accessibility and save the average university student $400 a year, while college students would save up to $200 a year.
Andrew Boggs, executive director at OUSA, said overall he was happy with the plan. He added it was a mixed announcement in that it was an important step for students, but the plan was vague in terms of student aid and re-regulation.
"We don't know what re-regulation means," he said. "[The NDP] needs to define exactly what they mean by re-regulation and determine what kind of plan they want to pursue for student aid."
Boggs said it was a positive sign for students that the issue of reduced tuition was being addressed by some of the political realm. He added he hopes the announcement by the NDP will put pressure on the other parties to publicly discuss their plans for post secondary education.
"It's a good step if the NDP are elected. It's a realistic promise they've made."
USC VP-education, Nick Iozzo, said although the announcement by the NDP is vague, it is a good head start.
"The NDP is the first of the three political parties to chart what they are going to do with tuition levels if they get elected," Iozzo said.
"A 10 per cent rollback of a social science tuition is significant," he added.
Education critic for the Liberal party, Lyn McLeod, said tuition and investment in education would be at the forefront of the Liberal platform for the next provincial election.
"We're very concerned about student debt," McLeod said. "We're looking at a comprehensive policy that addresses the key issues in post secondary education."
Dianne Cunningham, minister of intergovernmental affairs for London North, has also said she believes education will be an important issue in the next provincial election.