'We need free education': U Windsor students rally against OSAP changes

Students organized a rally today outside the student centre at the University of Windsor to protest against the provincial governments changes to OSAP.

About 50 people attended the rally

Deborah Willoughby (left), Val Kuri (centre), and Alexandra McMichael protested Thursday at the University of Windsor against the provincial government's cuts to OSAP. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

Students organized a rally today outside the student centre at the University of Windsor to protest against the provincial governments changes to OSAP. 

Elected officials, including MPPs Taras Natyshak and Lisa Gretzky, attended the rally alongside students and union members.

"The minister who made the announcement said that every student that qualifies will be able to pursue post-secondary education," said NDP MPP Gretzky.

Tap on the player below to watch a portion of the rally:

"You are all here today to let the government know that every single person in this province qualifies for an education."

Peter Miller, an activist from the Young Communist League and second-year teacher's college student led the crowd in a chant of "Hey hey, ho ho, tuition fees have got to go," before saying Doug Ford was on the "attack."

"We won't let reactionaries have space on our campus," said Miller. "Our campus has standards." 

Miller said the students had a collective duty to organize and fight back.

Bree Arbor says she was considering returning to university in the fall, but the provincial government's cuts to OSAP have her reconsidering that decision. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

"Together we will defeat the cuts to education," said Miller, adding free education needs to be the demand.

Bree Arbor, a University of Windsor graduate, said she has been a student organizer for years, pushing for the government to drop tuition fees for post-secondary institutions.

She said she's seen many people in her life who either have had to dropout of school or were in "dire and desperate" situations because of high costs.

Some examples Arbor mentioned include students who end up homeless and some who rummage through trash for food.

"These cuts are just making an already really bad situation 1,000 times worse," said Arbor.

Students, MPPs and union members rallied Thursday outside the CAW Student Centre. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

On top of that, she said students should have a say on what sorts of student fees they pay, rather than the government making the decision. She worries it will roll back important services for students, like funding to peer support centres.

"Institution funding is important, it's there for a reason," said Arbor. "Really what this is, this is a sneaky way to attack student unions and student ways of organizing."

Gretzky thanked members of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario and CUPE for attending the rally, mentioning the recent plan in Ontario to remove caps on primary grade class sizes. 

"They are all standing with you, with us, to fight against the cuts to our education system," said Gretzky. "[The government] is rolling back access to affordable education. It's so important you don't have just one day of action. Contact every MPP in the province."

"What you're doing here today can make a difference."

with files from Sanjay Maru