Students in Ontario are paying almost double the average tuition than the rest of Canada. Higher education is becoming an unaffordable luxury for many new students and that is wrong. The province needs to be smarter at investing in higher education.

Yes, people from low income families – whose household makes less than $50,000 a year – will benefit from free tuition starting next year. Yet, this solution leaves many students out.

What about those whose families make slightly more than $50,000 a year but have three kids?

What about those students from affluent families but whose parents refuse to pay for their kids’ tuition? This is an increasing practice among Canadian families.

The solution for many becomes taking on debt to cover their expenses. Others prefer working and paying for their own education, which sometimes can take them years.

While this is intended to pay for tuition and living expenses, these “solutions” can also put students at a disadvantage in their school performance.

Having to work to sustain yourself while going to school not only means less time to read, do your assignments and study for exams. It also means little or no time to take on extra-curricular activities like sports, participate in student clubs or conferences, among others.

These types of activities not only help students further their knowledge and get a better experience out of their programs. Extra-curricular activities, especially those directly related to a student’s program, are great for networking – a key element for success.

While it’s true that the provincial government’s three per cent cap on tuition increases made the hit on our pockets softer, it remains problematic. That three per cent is about double the rate of inflation during the years the cap was in effect.

Meanwhile, OSAP insists on putting a cap on the funding any given student can get. The reason is simple; the province doesn’t want their student funding program to get out of control. And that is smart; the last thing we want is taxpayers’ money going to private colleges offering bogus degrees.

But the same limit for every single student seems arbitrary.

OSAP does make some exceptions on a case-by-case basis, but these are very rare. Sometimes, even students with disabilities, whose cases are particularly different, see their funding limited under what they need.

The solution OSAP provides to students with disabilities is to take a reduced course load. In some cases, this does not make sense, not even financially. Why cover the cost of additional school years? Adding more funding to a student’s current year means they don’t have to work outside of college to cover non-tuition expenses.

The province is not being smart about their investment in education.

According to Algonquin’s website, “[the] college’s operating costs have risen by four per cent to five per cent.” It also claims that “Ontario continues to have the lowest per-student tuition and grant funding in the country.”

The argument can be made that post-secondary institutions in Ontario are, in general, more competitive than their counterparts in other provinces. The University of Toronto is often ranked as the top university in the country, and Algonquin College continues to be among the best in Canada.

Here is where it gets tricky. Is there a way to maintain the quality of our post-secondary education without turning it into a luxury?

Quebec is certainly doing it.

A few years ago, the government in Quebec announced a significant increase in tuition across the province.

Students in Quebec were not happy and took to the streets to protest against this decision.

Large demonstrations across the province forced Quebec’s government to back down and keep tuition increases at a very low rate.

Meanwhile, the quality of its post-secondary institutions is among the best in Canada.

McGill and the University of Quebec are regarded as two of the best in the country. It’s also worth pointing out that the University of Quebec has campuses all over the province.

For those of you worrying about the effect funding higher education can have on the province’s finances, Quebec managed to do this and balance its budget.

Last year, the government of Quebec got rid of its deficit. This year, it announced a $2 billion surplus.

How? It stopped putting the burden of balancing its budget on the backs of those who are in need – like students.