By Matthew Le Blanc
In a conference call today, John Milloy, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, compared one aspect of the Liberal’s education plan to the sales tactic of a furniture store. “Just like Leon’s Furniture” is how Milloy describes the changes the Liberals are looking to make to OSAP if re-elected. No interest and no payment on loans for the first six months.
Graduates would no longer be charged monthly interest or expected to make any form of payment for half a year, which could make it easier for graduates to find their bearings. Along with this policy, Milloy spoke of their Repayment Assistance Plan, which would allow graduates the opportunity to have their payments adjusted after a reassessment.
“Any student who feels that their monthly loan repayments are out of line with their income can have them reassessed and have that monthly payment reduced or, in many cases, [reduced] to zero and over time actually see their debt forgiven,” says Milloy.
“There’s nothing retroactive. We provide interest relief in the first phase and then we actually start to pay down the principle. We don’t come back to the student eight years later and say here’s a bill. In fact, with this we should see, theoretically, no one defaulting on their loans in the province of Ontario.”
However, the crown jewel in the Liberal’s education plan remains to be the heavily campaigned 30 per cent decrease in college and university tuition fees, which both Milloy and MPP Greg Sorbara pushed during the conference.
“It’s for families under $160,000 and the reason why we’re focusing on students in that range is because, in the middle class and below, they’re the ones who we feel will benefit the most,” says Milloy. “If your father’s a multimillionaire you’re probably not going to feel it as much as if they’re a middle class family, so that’s why we focus on the middle class and lower income folks.”
NDP’s plan to freeze tuition was repeatedly brought up and shot down by both Milloy and Sorbara, claiming the idea would lead Ontario down a path to further debt and instability.
“Tuition is an important source of revenue for our institutions,” says Milloy. “What they basically said was they would freeze tuition, but they’re not going to provide our colleges and universities with enough revenue to make up the difference, which means the quality of education is going to go down,… larger class sizes, problems on campus.”