Despite growing up in a single parent household in one of the city’s designated priority neighbourhoods, Asquith Allen is determined to secure a solid post-secondary education, despite the financial challenges.
The York University third-year political science student welcomed last week’s provincial government announcement of a 30 per cent tuition grant as of January 1 to full-time college and university students with annual family incomes of $160,000 or less.
Qualifying students in a degree program at a university are eligible for $1,600 while college students will receive a $730 rebate.
“The rebate gives me the latitude to buy course material I need to do well in my program,” said Allen, who graduated from York Memorial Collegiate Institute and plans at attend law school. “With just one pay cheque in my family, it’s hard enough to make ends meet, let alone for me to attend university and concentrate on my studies.”
Starting at about $5,000 in his first year, Allen said his first-year tuition cost has risen almost $1,200 in the last two years.
“And that does not include books,” he said. “I received some bursaries and scholarships in my first-year and I have done some-part time jobs to pick up some extra cash to defray my school expenses.”
Ontario has the highest average university tuition fees in the country.
Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, Glen Murray, hosted a media reception last week at Queen’s Park to discuss the grant that will make post-secondary education more affordable for thousands of Ontarians.
“The announcement today is not just about money for students and help for families,” said the former Winnipeg mayor. “It’s about ensuring that every political office, every role and every leader in business, culture, labour and academia is open to each and every Ontarian. This is not simply rhetoric. You have to put your money where your mouth is…This grant is going to help all kinds of families because it’s that second ticket to mobility of success.”
Murray was joined at the reception by several ministers, including Charles Sousa (Citizenship & Immigration), Michael Chan (Tourism, Culture & Sport) and newcomer, Michael Coteau.
“I was the first in my family to attend university and it was expensive then,” said Murray, a Carleton University graduate. “I know the cost has risen sharply since that time. What our government is offering is a substantial reduction with no strings attached.”
Sousa said the grant paves the way for students to attend college or university based on their quest to learn and not on their ability to pay.
“As a parent, I know how important this is,” he said. “We are always striving to promote our kids with every opportunity to succeed…This grant is an investment in young people to help us build a workforce that is second to none and we are removing barriers at a time when we want everyone to be at their best with the skills and education they need.”
Chan, who migrated from Hong Kong nearly four decades ago, said it is important tuition is kept within everyone’s reach.
“Ontario is internationally recognized and respected for higher education,” he said. “The McGuinty government values the important contributions our diverse communities make to our education system. By today’s announcement, we have answered the call to increase accessibility and reduce costs so that our students will continue to succeed.”
Students enrolled in the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) will receive an automatic computer credit based on their OSAP application while other students will have to apply online at a website to be launched in the next few weeks.