Don’t drop students to drop fees (A re-post)

From: The Charlatan. Carleton University’s Newspaper.

Nobody enjoys paying tuition fees.

No kidding.

But the Drop Fees campaign, led each year by the Ontario wing of the Canadian Federation of Students, insists that there is an alternative.

With the list of 29 items that campaigners are asking the Ontario government to satisfy, they’ve set out to make university life less financially devastating to students. But looking through the campaign’s list of demands, it’s hard not to ask: “Will you please show your work?”

The campaign fails to explain where money would come from in the event that tuition fees are lowered. The only answer we’ve heard is: “The government should pay it.”

Does this mean that taxes would have to increase? Would wages be cut for staff and faculty?

This point should be the crux of the campaign and the fact that it isn’t certainly raises questions as to what the repercussions of this program’s success may be.

If the burden falls onto taxpayers, then hard-working students’ mommies and daddies could end up paying even more for their children’s education.

And would families living in poverty, the very people the campaign supposedly intends to help, have to pay higher taxes to pay for lower tuition fees, too?

Another hole in the Drop Fees initiative is created by the call to increase the number of faculty per student. This serious issue, which many students relate to with frustration, comes into conflict with the first campaign objective.

Again, where would the funding come from to support the added staff?

In order to recruit faculty in the first place, universities have to make attractive financial or research resource offers.

The unfriendly truth is that faculty costs money and this part of the initiative would only add to the financial strain.

Perhaps the most frustrating repercussion of this entire campaign is that not all students would benefit from it, and some could actually be harmed by it.

Many professional and graduate programs have historically had more flexibility to charge higher tuition fees. With this system in place, policies proposed by Drop Fees might not benefit professional programs like nursing, engineering and medicine, for example.

In addition, the Drop Fees initiative plans to eliminate the Ontario textbook and technology grant available to all students who qualify for loans under the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP). The campaign recommends putting this money, instead, towards an overall drop in tuition fees.

Considering this grant is only $150 per student to begin with, when spread out over all post-secondary students, this is not going to go far.

Under this plan, students in technical and professional programs not only stand to miss out on the lowered fees that form the basis of the campaign, they will also lose this grant. What technical student in his or her right mind would ever want to support this?

Most disturbingly, the Drop Fees campaign is not upfront about these facts.

The campaign does propose to support these programs by making OSAP available to professional, graduate and part time students.

That would be a noble goal, if OSAP hadn’t already done so long ago.

OSAP is already available to these groups, who seem marginalized by the rest of the campaign.

Professional and technical students, along with Ontario’s taxpayers, are the ones who stand to lose based on the list of Drop Fees recommendations.

This whole endeavour could be far more constructive if the campaign presented the government with a solid plan of action that spoke, not just for a few student groups, but for everyone.

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