The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario and the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance have submitted proposals to the province for the 2014 Ontario Budget. Both proposals advocate for lowering tuition fees and creating job opportunities through internships and co-operative education positions.

OUSA proposes increasing the Ontario Tuition Grant from 30% to 35%, amounting to about $70 million of the budget.

The CFS-O, however, called on the government to eliminate the tuition grant altogether and instead reallocate the funds to reducing overall tuition fees by 30% for all undergraduate students, including those who currently don’t qualify for the grant, over three years. Currently, international and mature students are ineligible for the grant.

“The money from a tuition grant is often not reaching who needs it most,” said CFS-O chairperson Alastair Woods. “We could put that money towards a real tuition fee reduction for all students.”

OUSA’s proposal focuses on improving eligibility for Aboriginal students and those students who have dependents, regardless of how long they’ve been out of high school.

When asked about the inaccessibility of the 30% Off grant, OUSA president Amir Eftekarpour responded, “We want to increase [the grant by] 5% and extend eligibility to make the grant more available for everyone.”

OUSA also aims to improve the fairness and efficacy of financial assistance programs and teaching quality for students. In addition, the organization recommends that the province increase co-operative education placement opportunities by 10% and create informational resources for the students’ employers. In terms of teaching quality, OUSA recommends creating 200 new, evenly distributed, program-focussed teaching positions across Ontario.

The CFS-O’s proposal addresses the issue of unpaid internships and advocates for their elimination. In addition, the federation calls for increased investment in public transit. The total cost of the CFS-O’s recommendations is $817 million.

CFS-O’s file also suggests areas for saving about $4.2 billion in government spending. Its suggestions include restoring 2009 corporate tax rates and introducing salary caps for university and college administrative employees.

Woods claims that this generation “has reached a turning point” with regards to escalating tuition fees, “where the younger generation is worse off than their parents”.

The Ministry of Finance conducts pre-budget consultations from December until February. The Minister of Finance, Charles Sousa, has organized a provincial tour to collect ideas from the public on how to optimize the budget for Ontario’s economy. This includes jobs, economic growth, and public services such as education.

Pre-budget consultations end on February 28. The provincial budget is expected to be released in March.

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