Current students will be shafted

Future students to receive free tuition while the rest of us are left in the dust

Premier Kathleen Wynne attended a meeting with students in Kaneff to discuss the potential setbacks of offering all students free tuition.

While I understand that obviously not every student can be granted free tuition, my main problem with the new program coming in September 2017 is that students from previous years will be shafted out of tuition help.

A few editorials ago I wrote about how the English program is finally getting an overhaul in their courses. According to the head of the English department, Alexandra Gillespie, courses will soon be added to include more writing. Writing is something that this campus has been missing for quite some time, and I was pretty excited to hear that we were finally getting something. However, what bothered me is that these changes are going to take place after I’ve already graduated. Creative writing is something that I’ve wanted at UTM since I came here in 2012, yet these changes are only going to be implemented now. I’m not the only English student who wanted to have writing courses, either. My friends and I were pretty bothered by the fact that we had barely anything, and it took this long for the English department to finally get these courses added into the curriculum.

As upset as I was, it’s something I’ll get over. U of T does offer some pretty interesting writing courses in the School of Continuing Studies (though, I shouldn’t have had to wait until I graduated to finally get some creative writing under my belt).

Wynne recently discussed how students from low-income households ($50,000 or less) will be granted free tuition in September 2017. Four out of five students from families with an income between $50,000-$80,000 will be eligible for free tuition as well.

I’ve known students (as I’m sure we all do) who have worked their asses off to either support themselves through school or to actually put themselves through school. Where was the help when these students were working their fingers bloody in school and at work just to put themselves through school? Students living these types of strenuous lives came from low to medium-income families, too. Where was their help?

I’m glad that students from low-income families will be given the opportunity to attend post-secondary education. Their income or their families’ income shouldn’t deter them from attending a program that will open many doors for them once they graduate. And I obviously believe in helping students who need it.

Wynne also had a point in addressing the concerns of students and letting them know that it simply isn’t feasible to offer all students a free ride to university or college. To be honest, I think that UTMSU was offering a solution that was simply too good to be true, and this was Wynne’s solution to their rallies and concerns. But, that doesn’t mean that the answer is to offer free tuition to some of us and not to all of us as a way to try and appease all of us. Like I said, tuition concern is not a new problem, so to do this now and brand yourself a hero for helping students doesn’t negate the fact that many of us will still be struggling as we watch those of us who you finally did decide to help.

But this is unfortunately how it seemingly has to be when initiatives like this get introduced. The government tries to help a bunch of students and winds up angering a ton of others who have already graduated or are in the process of doing so. I’m going to graduate this April, which means that I’m only a few months away from watching hundreds of students come in and get a free ride when a ton of my friends and I will be over $20,000 in debt.

I know that on the surface, this may sound like a good solution to students. “We asked for free tuition and now we’re getting it.” But, we’re not getting it. We’ll just be watching as others get it.

I’m also not really of the opinion that university should be free to begin with. We obviously need to pay for these institutions. We’re in a place of higher learning. I’d like to think that us having to pay for school ensures that we don’t take it for granted. That’s not to say that I think it should be a prestigious place that turns its back on lower-income families. But, school should be affordable, not free.

It isn’t just this plan that’s the issue, obviously. UTM has been a cash cow ever since I came here. I need to pay to see my transcript? Awesome. Let me work my ass off to keep up my grades, and then charge me a fee to see the paperwork. Charge us a fee when we need to apply to graduate school. We also need to pay a fee to see our exam? We needed to pay to have our exams remarked? We pay hundreds a year for textbooks that get bought back for, what? Thirty cents? My personal favourite is how the bookstore can’t even be bothered to keep the shelves stocked with books for my classes, and I need to go somewhere else to buy them. We also pay the student unions a criminal amount. Frankly, I’m surprised that we don’t get charged fees to use the washrooms around here.

Millennials will already have a hard enough time to support ourselves once we graduate. How many of us still live with our parents so we can try and raise money for a house or even an apartment? Even then, moving into an apartment isn’t even a feasible option for many that I’ve spoken to, because they want to live in something that they own. This means hanging around at home, trying to pay off their thousands of dollars’ worth of debt, and trying to save up for a house at the same time.

Friends of mine have had to take time off in the middle of their studies to work for a year so they would have enough money to come back here. It’s ridiculous that the government decided to get off their ass and do something about this now when thousands of us are already drowning in debt. Why does it take this long for them to do something that benefits us? It’s not like student debt is a new problem that popped up in the past few years. Wynne and her team have been watching us crumble under our debt and watching us fend for ourselves once we leave our institutions. And hey, 30 percent off of our overall tuition fees is a start, but it sure as hell isn’t a free ride. For some of us, 30 percent doesn’t even cover one year of our studies, let alone all four or five of them.

You can also throw millennials into the job market and watch how long it takes for them to find a job —let alone a job that will aid in paying off their debt in addition to supporting them. Sure, students may not have to pay off their debt until they’re earning a certain amount, but when their tuition fees soar past their paycheque, there’s a problem.

I don’t want this to sound like these students are undeserving of this opportunity. It’s just my opinion that universities or colleges shouldn’t be free entirely. That doesn’t mean we should be charged $20 for breathing on the property either. This initiative welcomed by Wynne and her team isn’t a good solution for everyone. This plan of hers has inevitably left many students behind in the hopes of appeasing incoming students. Calling for free tuition isn’t the answer either because our fees do aid in keeping these places alive.

I’m not saying that I have the definitive answer, I’m just saying that Wynne’s answer has successfully ignored many of us who have been struggling for years. It will ignore those of us who will continue to struggle when we leave our schools. I think I’m justified in feeling like I’ve been shafted. I could have used free tuition too. The majority of students who graduated before me or will graduate with me could have used it too. These students deserve affordable education, but there isn’t a student that deserves it more than someone else. Where the hell was this opportunity when the rest of us were calling for it?


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