On January 17th, 2019 the Ontario government released changes to the current Ontario tuition framework, which includes a 10% decrease in tuition costs to publicly funded universities and colleges, a freeze of tuition costs in the 2020-2021 school year, changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) and an option to opt-out of non-essential ancillary fees.
For the 2018-2019 school year, the average Ontario engineering tuition was $12,543 for domestic students. This amount is substantially higher than the engineering tuition in all other Canadian provinces. Ontario engineering students are appreciative of the 10% reduction in tuition fees followed by a tuition freeze. However, the Engineering Student Societies’ Council of Ontario (ESSCO) is concerned about the effect of the tuition fee reduction on the quality of education, and access to high quality lab resources, such as modern equipment and supplies, without increased public funding.
Engineering students are also concerned about the various changes to OSAP, particularly the shift to a system that distributes a higher ratio of loans to grants. ESSCO hopes that the changes do not affect the accessibility of an engineering education in Ontario, especially among lower income students.
ESSCO is also disappointed with the elimination of the six month grace period to pay back student loans without interest. According to Stats Canada data, only 38% of graduating students gain employment within the Engineering field, and most take many months to find employment in other fields. The elimination of the interest-free grace period will have a substantial negative financial impact on the majority of Ontario engineering student graduates.
The effect of an online opt-out option for all non-essential non-tuition fees on ESSCO member engineering societies is troublesome. ESSCO strives to ensure that all engineering students continue to have access to the essential services provided by their individual school engineering societies. ESSCO Vice President, Logan McFadden, states that “Engineering Societies provide academic support, accountability for larger organizations such as their faculty and administration, and provide representation on a local and provincial scale. They also foster a sense of community and develop their students on a professional and leadership level.” First year undergraduate students are unaware of the role their student society provide until after they begin their studies.
ESSCO acts as a liaison to the provincial government and relevant stakeholders in engineering education. Reduced student member fees will diminish ESSCO’s capacity to provide the benefits that it currently offers, and negatively impact the entire engineering undergraduate body.
ESSCO hopes to work with the Government of Ontario to fully understand the implications of these changes and how it adversely impacts our members.