NDP leadership candidate Greg Selinger will look to provide students with access to the existing 60 per cent tuition rebate while they are still in school. His feeling is that earlier access to the rebate could be an effective alternative to the tuition freeze.
“It’s a better approach, because it covers more students. [ . . . ] It gives you the money while you’re going to school and the only requirement is that you are living and working in Manitoba afterwards,” said Selinger.
He explained that the rebate would be available to international students as well, providing that they live and work in Manitoba after they graduate, a main condition of the rebate.
“This would be a plus for them, whereas the tuition freeze didn’t help them that much.”
Another advantage Selinger said the rebate would have is that, while tuition rates traditionally have to be moderate in their increases each year, the tuition rebate has a fixed rate of 60 per cent.
“The thing about this tuition tax rebate is that it’s 60 per cent of their tuition, so [ . . . ] if tuition goes up four per cent, the rebate is still 60 per cent of that. So it gives you protection,” said Selinger.
Some student representatives have said the rebate would not be a big enough step.
“This funding has been available to students before during the tuition freeze as well. I wouldn’t say that it’s necessarily a great alternative,” said Courtney Maddock, vice-president (internal) of the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association.
“I believe this leadership race [ . . . ] provides a unique opportunity to re-evaluate policies and implement a coordinated strategy on post-secondary education in our province — one that includes tuition fee controls and reductions, increased student supports through upfront grants and bursaries, targeted measures for marginalized and underrepresented groups and legislative measures that protect and enhance the student experience and students’ rights” said University of Manitoba Student Union president, Sid Rashid.
One of Selinger’s main objectives for post-secondary education is better linkages between high schools and post-secondary institutions. One of the programs he hopes will strengthen these linkages is the Pathways Program offered through the Bright Futures initiative, which helps disadvantaged and low-income students complete high school and pursue a post-secondary education.
“It allows you [ . . . ] to get more support and get your high school completed, but also provides financial support for your savings, to put money aside for your success, so you have a down payment for going to college or university,” said Selinger.
Access programs, targeted towards students who due social, economic, cultural reasons or lack of formal education traditionally may not have had the opportunity to attend university, also play a major part of his plan for post-secondary education. Selinger taught in one of the programs for 15 years.
“The access programs are really important and have historically played a significant role in higher education of aboriginal people, people with lower incomes and immigrants,” said Selinger. He went on to say that these programs are essential because they provide students with additional social supports.
“Those programs are fundamental because we’ve got a lot of those extra social supports when people are raising children and doing all the other things they have to do while they’re going to school, because they’re usually older,” said Selinger.
Student representatives say the most important need for students is making post-secondary education affordable and accessible as well as address issues out of education including housing, childcare and minimum wage.
During his presentation at the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, the University of Manitoba’s president, David Barnard, declined to comment on post-secondary promises made by NDP leadership candidates, such as Steve Ashton’s pledge to restore the tuition freeze next fall, as reported the Winnipeg Free Press.
“We’ll work with whoever’s premier, but I’m not going to comment,” Barnard said.
On Monday, former NDP leadership candidate Andrew Swan announced that he was no longer in the running and asked his supports to back Selinger.