Ontario’s opposition parties went on the attack against the self-described “education premier” yesterday after learning the Liberal government had quietly scaled back grants for college and university students.

Last year, Premier Dalton McGuinty introduced a $385-million program to provide a $150 textbook and technology grant for post-secondary students and a $500 travel grant for students who must commute or move more than 80 kilometres to attend school.

But the government quietly changed the rules so anyone who does not qualify for student aid also won’t get the textbook or distance grants.

“You’re going back on your promise and taking away the last little thing left for thousands of students,” NDP education critic Rosario Marchese told McGuinty in the legislature.

“The tiny little textbook incentive was supposed to grow, not be snatched away (and) now students in rural areas will face one more obstacle to their education.”

McGuinty said he was proud of the grant program initiated last year, but admitted the government was scaling back the grants because of the faltering economy.

“We’re now staring into the face of a worldwide recession, and we’ve had to make some adjustments,” he told the legislature.

“We’ve got to act responsibly. We’ve had to trim things a little bit given our financial circumstances.”

McGuinty said 72 per cent of students who received the textbook and technology grants last year would be eligible again this year, but the NDP disputed the premier’s figures.

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