The majority of post-secondary students in Ontario will receive 30 per cent tuition rebates in time for the second instalment of their fees in the upcoming winter term, Colleges and Universities Minister Glen Murray promised.

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Students protest against rising tuition costs on Parliament Hill. Ontario has the highest average university fees of any province but has promised a 30 per cent rebate for low- and middle-income families. ((Tom Hanson/Canadian Press))

A centrepiece of the Liberal campaign platform was rebates of $730 for each college student and $1,600 for each university student from families with incomes under $160,000 a year.

Those already enrolled in the Ontario Student Assistance Program — about half of the 310,000 who will be eligible for the tuition rebates — will automatically be in line for the rebates, Murray said.

"They won't have to do anything," he said. "They will get an automatic computer credit based on their OSAP application [and] that will happen well in time for them to pay the second instalment of their tuitions."

The rest will have to apply online at a website to be launched next month.

"There will be a simple, easy to navigate website established in January that will be available for those students to apply, and it will be done well in time for them to meet the payment," Murray said.

"They will have lots of lead time to be able to fill out a simple form on line."

Credits McGuinty

Murray credits Dalton McGuinty — the self-proclaimed education premier — with pushing the idea, saying families need help to cope with the slow recovery that followed the recent recession.

"We're removing significant financial barriers for families who are under financial stress, especially for families — and there are many — who have two or three or four children now either in college or university or in the final years of high school," Murray said.

Tuition's climb

University tuition, briefly free in part of Canada, has been skyrocketing for decades. Read why

The Liberals say five out of six families with students will benefit from the tuition rebates, but the Canadian Federation of Students said all students should get a tuition cut.

The student group presented a 40,000-signature petition to the legislature asking that the $423-million annual cost of the rebate program be used to pay for a 13 per cent reduction in tuition fees for everyone.

"Dalton McGuinty was elected by promising to reduce tuition fees, and students are calling for him to keep his promise and turn this grant into an across-the-board fee reduction," said Krisna Saravanamuttu, an Ontario representative for CFS.

The opposition parties support the students' position that the Liberals should reduce tuition fees for all.

At $6,640, Ontario has the highest average university tuition fees of any province in Canada. Fees have climbed nearly 300 per cent since 1990, far outpacing inflation.