Sudbury students rally against OSAP changes

Post-secondary students in Sudbury are voicing their opposition to the Ford government's decision to make changes to education funding. Students from Laurentian University, College Boreal and Cambrian College gathered at Tom Davis Square Friday afternoon.

Rallies took place across Ontario

College and university students in Sudbury rally against the Ford government's changes to education funding (Wendy Bird/CBC)

Post-secondary students in Sudbury are voicing their opposition to the Ford government's decision to make changes to education funding.

Students from Laurentian University, College Boreal and Cambrian College gathered at Tom Davis Square Friday afternoon.

They wanted to send a message to Queen's Park that they don't agree with the changes to OSAP, cutting tuition by 10 per cent or the new Student Choice Initiative.

Last week, the minister of training, colleges and universities Merrilee Fullerton made the announcement, saying the Ontario government is trying to make post-secondary education more affordable.

While the province is lowering the tuition fee by 10 per cent — at a cost to the colleges and universities — the changes to OSAP and the new opt out option for student fees, is what many students in Sudbury are worried about.

The new Student Choice Initiative allows students to opt out of paying the fees that fund student organizations, clubs and other campus groups.

Sudbury post-secondary students voice their opposition to the Ford government changes to OSAP, tuition cuts and the new Student Choice Initiative (Wendy Bird/CBC)

"Student unions are important and they're necessary. We provide so many services for our students and if that's cut I don't know what's going to happen to the future of students," said Mia Bourque, the vice-president of the Graduate Student Association at Laurentian University. 

Bourque says many students are extremely disappointed about this announcement as student unions provide health plans, bus passes, they help with Pride centres, Women's centres and Indigenous centres.

"If these are optional and these are cut, our campus life is going to look completely different and not accessible for people," she said.

The changes to OSAP means losing the six-month interest-free grace period after graduation to start repaying student loans. The government also scrapped the grants for free tuition for low-income students, instead students will get a mix of grants and loans.

Bourque worries that this will affect her ability to continue going to school.

"I'm a graduate student paying a lot of tuition to go to school and this could potentially make me not be able to afford school next year," she said. 

Sudbury MPP Jamie West showed his support to the students at the the rally.

"The government shouldn't be in the business of profiting off of students, we should be in the business of opening doors and making people be more successful," said West.

Colleges and universities help make Sudbury successful, he said, the students received a quality education and many young families come to settle in the city.

West says the tuition cuts are harmful to colleges and universities and could change the quality of education. 

"This 10 per cent tuition cut would be a great announcement if the government said 'from now on we're paying that 10 per cent' but what they're saying is 'we're cutting tuition and post-secondary schools... you figure out how to balance your budget," he said.

Quality education that's accessible could help keep students in the north, says Bourque. 

"We need to be taking care of our students in the north... to help make this economy prosper, we need to keep our students up here."

With files from Wendy Bird


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