Volume 94, Issue 99

Wednesday, March 28, 2000


OUSA tackles real students with debt

USC is 'all ears' for students

Huron memorial mourns student loss - Jordan Propas remembered

JSU honours Holocaust victims in annual 24-hour UCC vigil

StatsCan links income to Internet

More meningitis hits London


His Royal Mintiness

OUSA tackles real students with debt

By Chris Lackner
Gazette Staff

The halls of Queen's Park were full of real students with real debts yesterday, as the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance unveiled a new lobbying campaign for financial accessibility to post-secondary education.

The campaign, entitled Real Students, Real Debt, will attempt to heighten public awareness of the issues surrounding student debt and present stories about real students, in hopes of getting beyond the statistics, said Ryan Parks, executive director of OUSA.

A profile book of the same that will explore specific students who are economically challenged, is scheduled for release later this summer, he said.

Parks said accessible education has both economic and social benefits to society. "Quality, affordable university in Ontario is being compromised," he said.

Mark Schaan, president of OUSA, said provincial cut-backs to the operating budgets of Ontario's universities has forced many of them to increase their tuition fees.

Nevine Nassif, a third-year administrative and commercial studies student at Western, as well as a mother of four, said her economic concerns and demands affect her ability to perform academically. "I don't have time to give 100 per cent to school. I'm always worrying about how to pay the bills and feed the kids.

"For me, to leave school, I have to start paying back OSAP in six months," she said, noting her loan and interest repayments could add up to $12,000 per year. "I can't afford to stay in school and I can't afford to leave school."

Nassif said her government loan assessment noted she would need $32,000 over eight months in order to fund her education and support her family, but she only received $17,000.

"There is a lot of uncertainty entering the workforce," said Tina Yeung, a fifth-year student is theatre and drama at the University of Toronto, who will graduate with an expected debt of $14,050.

Tobey Whitfield, a fifth-year economics and history student at McMaster University, said he expects to graduate with a debt of over $20,000. He said he would like to see the six-month graduation window for government loan repayment extended.

Schaan said he thought OUSA's main lobbying efforts were for the reduction and deregulation in student fees and changes to student financial assistance programs.

Between 1992 and 1998, the number of students from families with less then a $50,000 income attending university has decreased by 6 per cent, Schaan added.

"Accessibility to education is the hallmark of a good society," said Erin McCloskey, VP-education-elect for Western's University Students' Council. "The campaign is putting a face on student debt and showing the faces behind the numbers."

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