Postcards from the Liberal edge
By Mark Brown
The Ontario Provincial Liberal Party wants to focus more attention on tuition increases and they are turning to students for help.
Dalton McGuinty, leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario, was at Carleton University Monday to launch a postcard campaign to draw attention to the impact deregulation and tuition increases are having on students, said David Caplan, Liberal Member of Provincial Parliament and critic for youth and training.
It is a campaign where students are asked several questions including how much debt they are carrying, how much their tuition is for the year and what they expect their total cost will be for this year in terms of rent, books and other living expenses, said Claire Gilbert, director of education affairs for the Carleton Students' Association.
"It is good to see someone willing to fight increases in student fees," she said.
"It is clear to Dalton McGuinty the burden students are placed under from debt, tuition increases and accessibility to the Ontario Students Assistance Program," Caplan said.
"This is a growing problem and he wanted to make sure this didn't get put on the backburner."
The average student debt load is $25,000 but the provincial government believes an acceptable level of student debt should be around $28,000, Caplan said.
"I don't think the government realizes how much students are going into debt," said Nick Iozzo, University Students' Council VP-education.
"Once we get that acknowledged then we can work together to find ways of reducing student debt load and find alternative means of funding students' education."
Rob Savage, spokesperson for the Ministry of Education and Training, defended the government's policy adding they are committed to ensuring accessibility to post secondary education, pointing to the government's 33 per cent increase to OSAP and grants.
"The focus here is we offer the best programs and we are at least ensuring the money is being invested properly," Savage said.
Where you see tuition increases there are better programs which will lead to better paying jobs, Savage added. "No college or university is required to increase their fees and those institutions that have decided to increase tuition had to submit a plan outlining how they were going to improve their curriculum."
"Those claims are really bogus," Caplan said. He added students have not seen the promised improvements such as reductions in class size.
Iozzo explained although the USC has endorsed the postcard campaign they are not trying to prop up any political party. "[The campaign] was not organized by students, but we are trying to do our best to accommodate it," Iozzo said.
"We are trying to put our resources into other awareness campaigns."
The USC has four to five hundred of the postcards which will be distributed to residents' councils, USC councillors and will be available to students in the USC office, Iozzo said. Students can return the postcards to the USC to be mailed out.
The Liberal Party hopes to present the postcards to the provincial government sometime around Thanksgiving, Caplan said. "If the action from the student leadership is any indication then the action has been really popular."