Ontario grads call for debt forgiveness

(Courtesy Ahmad Moussaoui)

Ahmad Moussaoui started a petition asking for the Ontario government to forgive OSAP loans. (Courtesy Ahmad Moussaoui)

A petition asking the Ontario government to forgive all OSAP loans is gaining traction on and off Ryerson campus.

Following the budget promise last week that Ontario will provide free tuition for students from families making under $50,000 annually, the new petition demands the same benefits to be applicable to people who already graduated or will graduate before the plan becomes effective.

With more than 55,000 supporters to date, the petition calls for “economic justice” and asks that those currently with OSAP also have their loans forgiven, or at least have be interest-free.

“To think most of us will still be paying our high interest loans long after the new students, who will be getting the same education for almost free…is just not right,” said Ahmad Moussaoui, who started the petition.

According to a Statistic Canada report in 2014, average university tuition fees cost more than $7,500 in Ontario. This gives the province the highest tuition fees in the country and they keep increasing every year.

Referring to recent graduates who are struggling with crippling debts of more than $25,000, Moussaoui, a St. Clair college graduate, said he felt the urge to raise awareness of this issue.

“This is a whole generation that is being literally handicapped by debt that is virtually impossible to wipe off because of the interest,” he said.

OSAP’s interest rate is prime plus one per cent at the provincial level.

“This is dangerous, and it needs to be addressed,” Moussaoui said.

But RSU vice-president education Cormac McGee raised doubts of whether the demand would be viable.

With the Ontario government facing hundreds of billions of deficit and debts, McGee said the province is aiming to reduce the debt by cutting the spending budget, including in the health-care sector.

“I feel like it’s not high on their priority list to pay back these students when they are cutting things from hospitals and health care because of this mass of deficit,” he said.

John Isbister, a Ryerson economics professor, expressed a similar sentiment.

He said the money would need to come from other funds or by increasing taxes in order to meet with the petition’s demands.

“Somebody will need to pay back these students’ loans. If it’s not going to be students, it would be taxpayers,” he said.

McGee also said it would require some transformations of the tax system in Canada.

“Money just (does not) come from (anywhere),” he said.

Regardless, Moussaoui believes it can be achieved. He noted that European countries such as Denmark and Germany have already implemented a free education system.

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