Exclusive: ‘Putting students first’: MPP says on Ontario tuition cuts

Emily-May Werginz, Eli Ridder | Report

David Piccini, a top official of the post-secondary institutions file, told The Avro Post in a campus publication exclusive on Friday that the Ontario government is “putting students first” with its tuition cut, optional student fees and other changes to student life.

The sweeping changes announced on Thursday included a 10 per cent tuition cut, eliminating free tuition for students from low-income families, giving choice to students over what student fees they want to pay and changing the rules around the Ontario Student Assistance Program.

Mr. Piccini, member of provincial parliament for Northumberland-Peterborough South, said that all the changes would be come into effect by August, in time for the start of the new school year.

On June 7 of last year, the Progressive Conservative Party swept to power in Queen’s Park.

On student fees

One of the main concerns raised by organizations such as the Canadian Federation of Students and the Canadian University Press is that the optional student fees would threaten the existence of student governments and clubs, including campus publications.

Piccini said that he had written for the Fulcrum while at the University of Ottawa and had been a coach of a university team, saying that he understood the importance of both clubs and student newspapers.

With the changes, however, Piccini explained that the Progressive Conservative government was “empowering students to make the decisions that are important to them”, noting that if students found the clubs and publications important, they will choose to fund them.

“I’m confident in the value” of student publications, he told The Avro Post.

Beyond that, Piccini confirmed that health and dental services, tagged as “essential”, would continue and would not be affected by the “Student Choice Initiative”, the title given to the optional fees.

Piccini did not go into details on how exactly the student fee options would look for those paying tuition, saying that it would mostly be left up to the post-secondary administrations themselves.

The student union for the University of Guelph-Humber and Humber College, IGNITE, is funded by student fees from both schools and has a budget of around $10 million per school year.

The Avro Post reached out for an interview with IGNITE over email and in-person regarding the new legislation that allows students to choose what student fees they pay, but they declined to respond.

Changes to tuition

Part of the announcements given on Thursday by the government under Premier Doug Ford was several changes to how tuition loans and grants work across the province.

Mr. Piccini stated that because “our commitment here, is to provide relief to Canadians” that international students will be ineligible for the 10 per cent tuition cut. 

One of the more contentious moves by the Ford government was to force students to take out loans for second-entry programs, such as law and medical school. Piccini said there was a lot of inaccuracies around that part of the announcement.

According to the new rules set to come into play this August, second-entry students will still be able to access certain grants, there will just be less of them in lockstep with post-secondary grants.

Students will still have the six month grace period to pay back their loans after they are finished school but it will no longer be interest free. 

Image provided by the office of David Piccini.

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