Cuts to work-study leave students in the lurch
NOV 08, 2012 | BY SEBASTIAN GREENHOLTZ
Student run bike repair and resource centre BikeChain was affected by the cuts. BikeChain will hold an Annual General Meeting Thursday, November 8, 7:30-9:30 p.m. at Harvest Noon. MAJ MAJOR
The provincial government’s work-study program provided jobs on campus to students with financial need. However, Ontario’s 2012 budget pulled the funding for the program, leaving universities the option of picking up the tab.
Ontario’s provincial budget has continued its funding of the “30% Off Ontario Tuition” grant, which provides up to $800 in funding for students in full-time undergraduate study. However, the budget states the “cost of the 30% Off Ontario Tuition grant is being offset by reducing funding to non-core programs,” one of which is the work-study program.
The University of Toronto has decided to fund a portion of the work-study positions, making major changes to allowing who can participate in the program and where the participants have the opportunity to work. Part-time, graduate, and international students can now participate in U of T work-study positions which were previously limited to full-time undergraduate students receiving OSAP.
As only academic department positions are available, levy groups’ positions are cut. The Legislative Assembly of Ontario’s Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs predicted these cuts, stating, “[I]nstitutions will not be able to maintain the program...So we’ll see a decrease in the amount of jobs available on our campuses…and we’ll see student jobs lost.”
One of the levy groups without work-study is the Centre for Women and Trans People (CWTP). It provides a safe drop-in space, community resources, and advocacy for women and trans people at U of T. However, with work-study positions cut, the Centre struggles to continue serving students.
Sabera Esufali, Coordinator for Volunteer Management and Peer Support, stated “[The Centre] is really volunteer driven in a lot of ways, so we don’t have a huge staff.” The volunteers are typically students struggling with five courses and thus have little time to contribute. The bulk of the work inevitably falls on staff.
The Centre prided itself on offering safe employment for marginalized students. Esufali commented, “There were students who would apply for work-study positions and specifically say, as a queer person of colour, or as a trans person of colour, whatever, this is a space where I feel I could actually come to work and be myself.”
Although students can apply for positions within academic departments, Kim Abis, Finance and Communications Coordinator at the CWTP, feels this is not a replacement. “Work-study is already an exploited type of labour. You only get paid $10.25 for a lot of work...I’ve organized a full-out academic conference--that should be done by someone who is unionized and paid much more than I am.”
“Basically, [the university] can tell the department, ‘This job that you wanted, that we were supposed to give you money for as a conference organizer, we’ll just give to you as work-study--it won’t be unionized.’ Because before if you worked for a department you had to be unionized, even if it’s 10 hours a week.” Abis concludes, “It’s all part of the neoliberalization of campus.”
Whatever reasoning one gives, the cuts to the work-study program leave students with one less option to cover the rising costs of education.
- Subtitle: Levy groups lose positions, students lose opportunities