Liberal party promises $300 textbook grant

Would cut cheques for 480,000 students annually

The Ontario Liberal party has promised to give every full-time post-secondary student an annual $300 grant if elected.

Students would register for the grant and provide proof of their full-time status. The money would be sent, as a cheque, directly to students at the beginning of the school year, without going through their universities.

The program is open to undergraduate and graduate students studying in Ontario. Liberal MPP for Kingston and the Islands John Gerretsen said there isn’t information available on whether foreign students would be eligible.

The program would cost an estimated $170 million per year, for the province’s 480,000 full-time students.

“We are now in a balanced budget situation and it would be paid for out of the growth in the revenue of the province,” Gerretsen said, adding that the money wouldn’t come from any new tax.

The program is an addition to the Reaching Higher program introduced by the Ontario government in the spring of 2005.

“[The grant] is primarily for textbooks but it could be for DVDs, for CDs, for equipment that they need for courses or whatnot,” Gerretsen said, adding that the provincial government would introduce accountability measures to ensure students were registered full time, but wouldn’t require students to submit receipts of their purchases with the grant money.

“We will not be looking for receipts because we know that each student that is diligent in their work will need and use the money [for school-related expenses],” Gerretsen said.

He said the program is still in planning stages.

Joel Duff, organiser for the Canadian Federation of Students, said the announcement was disappointing.

“This promise really lacks any clarity in terms of how it would be implemented, if it was implemented,” Duff said, adding that a bigger concern for the Liberal party should be the tuition fee increase.

In 2006, the Ontario government ended the province’s tuition freeze. At most universities, tuition has since increased between five and eight percent per year, depending on the program.

“At the end of the day, any savings that students may realize through this textbook grant is going to be clawed back by tuition fee increase,” Duff said.

Iain Crawford, ArtSci ’08, said a tuition freeze would be more beneficial to students than the textbook grant

“A tuition freeze is going to affect all students, part-time and full-time,” Crawford said. “[The grant] would only affect full-time students, [but] a lot of students who work study part-time.”

Other students expressed doubt about what students would use the grant for.

“I’d rather they just subsidized that money to the campus bookstores, to make the textbooks cheaper,” said Max Finchan, ArtSci ’09. “Some students don’t need $300.”

Kate Lockwood, ArtSci ’08, said she thinks the grant is a good idea. “I think that people who want to spend on textbooks will, and the people who want to spend it on Beachslam Mondays will, also.”

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