Upcoming changes to provincial funding for post-secondary tuition have two University of Windsor students excited about the 2016 Ontario provincial budget.
The Ontario Liberal government wants to ensure college and university students from families making less than $50,000 won't have provincial debt. The proposal was unveiled during the budget speech Thursday.
The program would also provide more grants to students from middle-income families, the government says.
"It's going to change everybody's life. It's not just for the person who is unable to afford it," said Lina Chaker, a student at the University of Windsor.
"The most important thing was definitely education," she said. "Saying that now there is free education for those who can't really afford it, that was the most important thing for me."
Chaker watched the budget speech with Arsh Bhatia in the CBC Windsor newsroom. Bhatia said his first impression focused on business, but it quickly switched to education.
"It means more people can go to university, where before they might not have because of financial constraints," Bhatia said. "A great idea could be stuck inside the head of someone who cannot afford an education. That's what I'm interested in."
Bhatia said his tuition as a fourth-year business student at the university costs about $9,000 per year. He lives at home to save money, but he knows other students who've dropped out because they cannot afford tuition.
"It'd be nice to have those types of people [in school], even to continue on now [that] they can afford it," he said.
Simplifying funding model
Under the Ontario Student Grant, 90 per cent of college students from low-income families would get more than $2,768 for their education, which the government says is the average college tuition.
Seventy per cent of university students would receive grants in excess of the average university tuition of $6,160, according to the province.
The new system would also make tuition more affordable for students from middle-income families, the Liberals say. More than 50 per cent of students from families grossing $83,000 or less will be eligible for non-repayable grants in excess of the average college or university tuition under the new system.
The actual size of the grant for a particular student will depend on multiple factors, like whether they are living at home or away and the size of their family.
The government expects to dish out $1.3 billion in grants in 2017, the first year students will be eligible for the money. No student will get less money than they would under the current Ontario Tuition Grant program, the province says.
Ontario Liberal Finance Minister Charles Sousa said the new grant will help students and their families make sense of a system that is currently "very complex and convoluted."
Patrick Brown, leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, said that "while the government boasts they are helping people," it is really just cancelling one program to pay for another.