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Mixed reviews from Loyalist students for free-tuition plan

By Selena Steele-Clough [1]

BELLEVILLE – Loyalist College [2] students have mixed feelings about the Ontario Liberal government offering free post-secondary tuition for low-income families.

According to the Ontario budge [3]t released last week, most students whose parents earn less than $50,000 will receive grants from the Ontario Student Assistance Program [4] that will cover all their tuition costs, starting in the 2017-18 school year.

Erin Taylor, a Loyalist Justice Studies student from Brantford, Ont., said it’s good for the government to do this because it gives students a chance at post-secondary education.

But not everyone agrees that it’s a good idea.

Student Simon Sheehan said he thinks it’s not fair for students currently in college or university, or starting this year, who will miss out on free tuition.

“People who can’t qualify for this, I think that’s more of an issue right now,” he said.

But there are a lot of positive aspects, Sheehan added.

“I think it’s good for a lot of people who might have immigrated to the country and want to get an education,” he said.

Second-year Social Service [5] student Kendra Bickford agreed with Sheehan that it’s unfortunate that some students will miss out.

“It will benefit a lot of people,” Bickford said. “However, I do feel for the students who are thousands of dollars in debt.”

Pierre Erron, a student from Brighton, said he’s completely okay with free education as long as everyone has access to it.

“It just depends who’s paying for it and how much deficit is in Ontario,” said Erron.

Alexander Daily, a first-year Social Service [5]student, said that the free tuition will hopefully motivate students in high school to go to college or university.

“The main thing I find with teenagers and people who are younger than us is that they don’t want to go to school because they don’t want to be in so much debt,” Daily said.

Loyalist College president and chief executive officer Maureen Piercy says she is pleased with the enhanced support for students.

“Our students have a significant need for financial support to complete their education. The budget recognizes that college education is a necessity for greater numbers of people,” Piercy said in a prepared statement last week.

In announcing the program, Premier Kathleen Wynne said that post-secondary education for everyone in the province is an investment in Ontario’s future.

“Our government is helping to build the highly skilled workforce that will generate economic growth, improve social mobility and create long-term, sustainable prosperity for our province,”  she said in a prepared statement. [6]

In order to pay for the free tuition, the government plans to increase its taxes on gas, alcohol and cigarettes. [7]

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