Tuition bursary reshuffling screws mature students
So Dalton fulfills his campaign promise by gutting the textbook and QE grants, and reshuffling them into a tuition rebate that only applies to 1/3 of the students.. And it applies to households making $100,000-$150,000, meanwhile I barely scraped in $12,000 last year while trying to pursue my education and I'm cut out?Andrew Castaneda isn't looking for a handout. He just wants mature students to be considered for a new Ontario tuition grant that helps undergraduate students.
Castaneda, 28, is a third-year student in political science and urban development at the University of Western Ontario.
He isn't eligible for the grant that was a $420-million election promise by the Ontario Liberal government.
When details about the grant were announced in December, Castaneda was "beyond ecstatic" about receiving a tuition rebate that would relieve some of his student debt.
But when Castaneda returned to Western after Christmas break, a financial aid officer told him he wouldn't qualify for the grant because he's a mature student.
"It was a surprise because it seems like the students that aren't included are the ones that need it the most."
In addition to mature students, the grant excludes part-time students and students at private colleges.
The annual rebate is $730 for college students and $1,600 for university. Rebates for the current school year apply to the second semester because the grant program started Jan. 5.
To qualify for the grant, students have to come from families with a combined annual income of under $160,000 and have graduated from high school within the last four years.
About 300,000 students -- one-third of the province's college and university students -- will benefit from the grant, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities says.
"This grant is helping many undergraduate students and their families make the transition from high school to university," ministry spokesperson Tanya Blazina said via e-mail.
The Canadian Federation of Students said the rules are unfair and the Liberal government should have made across-the-board cuts to tuition fees.
The government cut financial awards such as the Ontario Textbook and Technology Grant, Queen Elizabeth II Scholarships and Ontario Trust for Student Supports.
The textbook grant was one award that Castaneda qualified for. Although only $150, it was money that helped.
"Now that it's gone, that's money I could've used for books, but won't have the chance," he said.
Blazina said the ministry is aware not all students are included and "hopes to address that need as efficiently as possible in the coming year while being aware of financial restraints."
Glen Tigert, associate registrar at Western, said all students enrolled at UWO are eligible for internal bursaries if they show financial need, including mature students. More than $10 million is available annually through bursaries.
"Whether you're a mature student or a student coming out of high school, if you have financial need, you're treated on the same basis."
Castaneda estimates he receives $1,000 to $1,500 in bursaries annually, applied to his tuition.
This is his second crack at post-secondary education. Castaneda came from Waterloo to study at Fanshawe College before dropping out of the general arts program when he realized it wasn't for him.
He stayed in London, working in call centres for six years to make ends meet and save for his return to school in 2007.
Castaneda has a student debt of about $30,000.
"My credit has been run through the rinse cycle in my time as a mature student because you can't get everything paid exactly on time," he said.
Though the province is helping relieve financial pressures some students face, more needs to be done, he said.
"They can say they're cutting tuition, but it comes with a very large asterisk."
AND THEY TOOK AWAY MY $150 TEXTBOOK GRANT
What is this crap?