Ontario’s plan to cut free tuition stifles our economic progress

Success of province’s socio-economic wellbeing dependent on financial aid  

Darian inside Sir John A. Macdonald Hall.
Darian inside Sir John A. Macdonald Hall.

The Ontario Government’s silence on the status of free tuition fuels unease and stifles the potential of students in Ontario.

On Oct. 24, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, Merrilee Fullerton, left the door open to cutting the province’s current free tuition program. Fullerton evaded pointed questions when asked about free tuition and emphasized the government’s concerns about finances.

For a government that considers itself “the government of the people,” programs like OSAP’s free tuition should be embraced rather than cut.  

Ontario’s socioeconomic well-being, both now and in the future, relies on its youth and unemployed to do well—and learn the necessary skills needed for a rapidly changing and increasingly competitive job market.

However, for a significant number of students, the ability to learn is hindered by their ability to pay.

In an age where a Roomba cleans my floor and my iPhone streamlines my morning routine, Canadian society’s rate of social progress and economic change has never been so drastic and fast. The provincial government ought to lead with an ideal that keeps Ontario’s everyday people competitive with international interests.

Education pays. It makes young Canadians better off when they enter the workforce. Students without the means to pay for tuition shouldn’t be focused on paying for their education and surviving day-to-day—they should be focused on working hard and making the most of what they're being taught in school.  

Everyone has the ability to learn the tools necessary to succeed in Canada’s current workforce. However, that ability is limited—and sometimes out of the question—when people don’t have the financial support from external agencies to pay for their education.

The government should keep OSAP’s free tuition program because Ontario’s ability to attract investment and become a hub of innovation for young, homegrown entrepreneurs depends on it.

Fullerton’s blank statements regarding the province’s plans for free tuition adds fuel to a growing fire of uneasiness—especially for working-class people whose livelihoods hang on the government’s fiscal whim.  

The government staying quiet on this issue doesn’t just affect students—it affects any Ontarian who wishes to return to school in hopes of gaining more skills and becoming a more appealing labour candidate to employers.

The minister and her cabinet colleagues, in their priorities for budget cuts over social investment, would push the province and its people off of the world stage and out of the competition for good, well-paying, sustainable jobs.

These good jobs are found through education and skills training. But to get them, you first have to pay the toll—and if you can’t, the Ford government seems to be saying, “Too bad.” While the province might supply the money for your education, you’ll have to pay it all back with interest.

In a time where the playing field is becoming more equal, programs like OSAP’s free tuition grants keep Ontario from becoming a province where income disparity increases.

The everyday, working-class people left behind by cutting free tuition will feel the generational impact of not being able to afford a post-secondary education. They’ll work to support their basic living needs instead of pursuing an education and achieving their full potential—which could’ve been realized with some financial aid.

A government for the people should at the very least provide potential educational opportunities for everyone in its society—especially young people who are forming the future of it.

For example, in a conversation with a barista—who's a young parent with limited college experience—I asked them how they were doing, to which they responded they'd just been accepted to return to post-secondary school and train themselves for business management.

They excitedly told me OSAP's free tuition and mature student grants will be how they finance it. Knowing the policies as I do, I knew that OSAP would've given them extra money to support their one-year-old, during their education. 

This is how Ontario remains a place for everyday people to dream and join the global competition for good jobs.

Programs like OSAP’s free tuition provide opportunities for every socioeconomic class to have an equal chance at punching above their weight. The ability to pay shouldn’t hinder the ability to learn. A government for the people should recognize this.

Ontario’s success depends on programs like OSAP, given that post-secondary skills and training are the crux of having good-paying, sustainable jobs that can companies profit off. It’s a win-win for the taxpayer and our government. 

Darian Doblej is a first-year law student.

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