Volume 96, Issue 62
Tuesday, January 21, 2003

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Liberal tuition scheme critiqued

By Anton Vidgen
Gazette Staff

The upcoming release of the Ontario Liberal Party education platform will enable parents to pre-pay their children's tuition at current rates – a move that will benefit wealthier families with disposable income, critics say.

Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty first announced the plan back in March 2002 at the annual Heritage dinner, but the issue attracted renewed attention when McGuinty spoke at Western last Thursday.

The pre-paid tuition program would allow parents and other contributors to pre-pay their children's future post-secondary tuition, priced at an average cost of an honours bachelor of arts, said Marie Bountrogianni, Liberal critic for colleges and universities. If the program becomes legislation, the provincial government would cover the difference caused by tuition increases for those parents who invest in the program, Bountrogianni said.

Critics charge that wealthy families who can pay ahead will evade future tuition increases, shifting the financial burden onto those that can only afford to pay when they enter university, when tuition fees would likely be at their highest rates.

"It's a cash transfer to the richest Canadians," said Joel Duff, Ontario chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students. "We have to find ways to get money to the people who need it."

Duff said he is concerned that the program was announced too hastily, with too little supportive research. "It's bad policy because it presupposes tuition increases," Duff said, adding tuition freezes would be given almost no consideration.

But Bountrogianni said the program would actually serve as an incentive to keep tuition low. "We recognize that there are families that won't take advantage of it," she said.

Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance President Josh Morgan said tuition is a growing problem and the pre-paid tuition program didn't serve the interests of all students. "It's a bad solution to a pressing problem," Morgan said, adding if tuition were to be frozen, there would be no need for the program.

Deb Matthews, Liberal candidate for London North Centre and a former Western student, cautioned against criticizing the program in isolation. "It's only a small part of the [Ontario Liberals'] platform," Matthews said.

USC VP-campus issues Nicole Nelson said the program does not address any of the financial concerns students have been communicating. "It's just rich kid insurance," Nelson said.


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