OUSA campaigning for tuition freeze

Students in Ontario pay the highest amount of tuition across Canada, a fact very evident for Brock students when they take a look at that heart-wrenching number listed on the ‘Financial History’ tab in the Student Self Serve menu.

Two representatives from the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) stopped by Brock on Jan. 14 to help out with the Time Out: Stop Tuition Hikes campaign. Zachary Rose, Executive Director, and Justin Bedi, Research Analyst, were at hand at BUSU’s advocacy table in Mackenzie Chown to talk to students and hand out swag.

Zachary Rose and Justin Bedi talked to students at the advocacy table / Melanie Pfaeffli

Zachary Rose and Justin Bedi talked to students at the advocacy table / Melanie Pfaeffli

“We’re taking a principled stand to get the government to reinvest in education and bring it back to a publicly-funded system,” said Rose.

In 1992, students were paying for a total of 20 per cent of a university’s operating budget. By 2012, that number had increased to 51 per cent. During those years, colleges and universities were free to raise tuition costs every year by five per cent. In 2013 however, the Ontario government announced a new three per cent policy cap on tuition increases. For the last three years therefore, the rise in tuition costs has been significantly less.

However, students are still paying more each year for tuition and OUSA is lobbying to change that. From Jan. 13 to Jan. 15, the seven member school of OUSA, including Brock, participated in the Time Out campaign to bring awareness about the issue to students.

“Not a lot of students know [about these numbers],” said Rose. “They’re certainly feeling the tuition rise and very interested in knowing more details.”

“The focus is on how operating costs and overall costs are increasing and that universities are becoming less publicly funded and more student-funded,” said Antonio Sergi, BUSU’s Vice President of External Affairs.

BUSU VPEA Antonio Sergi talking about the Time Out campaign

BUSU VPEA Antonio Sergi talking about the Time Out campaign

OUSA’s Time Out campaign included social media posts under the hashtag ‘timeoutON’ and handing out gloves and laptop stickers with the campaign logo. Students were asked to write on a whiteboard what they would do with the $800 they would get by graduation under a tuition freeze.

Wasim Demachkie, a Business student and BUSAC Councillor, was volunteering at the advocacy table on Jan. 14.

“I believe in this cause big time,” said Demachkie. “Life is becoming more expensive and a tuition freeze would help students save money and not have [university] be such a financial burden.”

In 2004, the Ontario government put a two-year freeze on tuition increases and Rose claimed that OUSA’s lobbying efforts were a part of that success. After 2006 however, the McGuinty government removed the freeze and allowed universities and colleges to increases costs. The current four-year tuition framework instituted in the 2013/2014 school year will come to an end after the 2016/2017 school year. OUSA’s efforts are directed at implementing a tuition freeze in the new framework that will begin in the 2017/2018 school year.

When the current tuition framework was put in place, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA), commented that, “Ontario has the worst level of per-student public funding in Canada, and this framework will put the province even further behind.”

The rise in tuition costs was identified as a priority last summer for OUSA. They have already started campaigning this year to get some traction with the issue before a new tuition framework is to be instituted next year.

“We’re active at Queen’s Park and we will continue to bring [the issue] to the decision makers,” said Rose.

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