Thunder Bay

Tuition assistance overhaul worries Lakehead University Student Union

The acting head of the student union at Lakehead University says he's worried that the province's plan to slash tuition, and overhaul Ontario's tuition assistance program, will do more harm than good.
Farhan Yousaf is the vice president of finance and operations and acting president of the Lakehead University Student Union. (LUSU)

The acting head of the student union at Lakehead University says he's worried that the province's plan to slash tuition, and overhaul Ontario's tuition assistance program, will do more harm than good.

"If it was a ten per cent reduction in tuition fees and that was it, that would have been good news, but when you hear all these other things along with it, I don't know what to think about it," said Farhan Yousaf, the VP of finance and operations, and acting president of the union.

"And I think in due time we'll see the negative effects of some of these policies."

Yousaf said he's worried about the impact of a number of changes on students, including the loss of a free tuition program for low income students, and the loss of a six-month grace period for loan repayment.

The expected loss of revenue for universities is also a concern, he said especially for smaller institutions such as Lakehead.

"This is going to definitely impact the quality of education that students are receiving," he said, adding that a further concern is that universities might increase fees for International students in an attempt to recoup some of the loss. 

The government's decision to allow students more freedom to decide which student fees they pay, could also have negative effects, Yousaf said. 

While fees for some services, such as health and safety programs, will still be mandatory, students will be able to opt out of others under the new plan. 

Yousaf said he worries about what the change might mean for things like the student union's refugee sponsorship program, a long-running initiative that bring refugee students to Lakehead to study, and is funded by student fees. 

Over the coming weeks, he said the student union will consult with university administration and other student union's across the province, before deciding what action it might take in response to the changes.