January 15, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 58  

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The Liberals’ quick fix

Though Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government has been breaking promises left and right, his promise of a fully funded tuition freeze may actually come true.

Of course, there are already problems, as the Liberal government has yet to define the parameters of this “fully funded” freeze. With universities working on their budgets for the upcoming year, administrations across the province are hoping the government will make a decision (as the province is only now beginning consultations on the matter) sooner rather than later.

Questions remain as to how such a freeze will effect the quality of education and services provided to students who are paying exorbitant costs to attend Ontario universities. With universities running huge deficits, it is necessary that any sort of tuition freeze be completely subsidized by the government.
Arguably, this tuition freeze can simply be seen as a public relations stunt to keep the disenchanted university youth quiet.

But at the end of the day, a tuition freeze seems a slap in the face to university students across the province as estimates denote that students will only save small amounts of cash. Saving $100 is incredibly petty, especially if it sacrifices educational quality and student services.
A tuition freeze in Ontario may result in the same sort of problems encountered in British Columbia just last year. After years of having tuition frozen under the previous New Democratic government when the freeze was lifted by the Liberals with universities in dire straights, tuition immediately doubled.
With both the government and universities preaching “affordability and accessibility,” a freeze of tuition translates to little benefit to students, especially those that can’t afford to go as it is.

What McGuinty’s government should be looking into is not a freeze that does little to improve the lives of university students, but instead into ways to help finance post-secondary education costs.

The system of student financial aid in Ontario is in a sorry state, which is an understatement to say the least. The Ontario Student Assistance Program has not been changed or improved in the last 10 years. Furthermore, funding cuts to this program and increasingly strict qualifying criteria prevent students in desperate need of aid from getting proper assistance.

The problem with university tuition costs ironically is not something that can be solved by throwing money, or freezing it if the case may be, to keep people happy. What needs to be addressed are ways that universities can become truly “affordable and accessible” to all students who qualify, while maintaining quality. Unfortunately, McGuinty’s tuition freeze is like slapping a band-aid on a bleeding aorta.



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