Rebate a success, for some

The 30 per cent Off Ontario Tuition Grant announced by Premier Dalton McGuinty on Jan. 9 is a win for students. Not only does the $400-million program make post-secondary education more accessible, but it’s refreshing to see politicians follow through on campaign promises.

The tuition rebate was a promise made during the Liberal party’s campaign for the Oct. 6 provincial elections last year.

A 30 per cent rebate on tuition payments under the program means that every undergraduate student who qualifies can receive up to $800 a semester.

The cost of a post-secondary education is high, and the 30 per cent rebate will offer help to struggling Ontario students.

Queen’s has effectively informed students about the program, alerting them through emails and posters in the JDUC of the simple way to claim the rebate.

While it’s encouraging, the rebate program has problems that could undermine its success. A $1,600 rebate per year is a significant amount of money, but may not reach the 30 per cent tuition fee mark for everyone. It covers a significant portion of Arts and Science undergraduate tuition, but $1,600 does little to combat the high tuition rates for an Engineering or Commerce student at Queen’s.

Another prevailing issue is qualifying for the grant. Students are exempt from the rebate for a number of reasons, including having been out of high school for more than four years. This effectively penalizes students who took a year off after high school, leaving them without financial aid for their fourth year of study.

The program also doesn’t give grant money to students whose parents earn more than $160,000 a year.

This limitation is meant to benefit those in greater financial need, but makes the assumption that parents with substantial earnings pay for their children’s education. Some parents, regardless of income, expect their child to pay their own way, and the new rebate program neglects these people.

Parameters and restrictions are necessary for the program, but it’s disappointing that many deserving students won’t see its benefits.

Overall the rebate program should be commended. It’s a big help to Ontario students — as long as they qualify.

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