This Thursday, the Ontario government under Premier Doug Ford announced changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), leaving some post-secondary students uncertain about their future.
While reducing tuition fees next year by 10 per cent for domestic university and college students, Queen’s Park also announced revisions to OSAP — the province’s main financial aid program that gives students loans or grants to help pay for tuition, books, supplies and living expenses.
The changes include the elimination of free tuition for students with a family income under $50,000, a program implemented by the previous Liberal government, and the end of the six-month grace period on interest charges, meaning that the interest on student loans will begin to collect immediately upon graduation.
Eligible family income for OSAP will be lowered to $140,000 from $175,000, and only students from families with incomes lower than $50,000 will receive grants. To be considered for OSAP as an “independent” student with no family income, you will have to have been out of high school for a minimum of six years under the new rules, up from four years.
“Just because a family makes a certain amount of income per year, [it] doesn’t mean they automatically have the capability to tackle tuition annually. Other priorities may come up,” University of Toronto student Nicholson Ckrhuschev said. “Reducing tuition costs is nice but it doesn’t mean anything if it’s harder to find a way to pay that reduced fee.”
According to Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities Merrilee Fullerton, OSAP has been unsustainable and the changes will benefit students by allowing the government to focus funding on those who need it most.
The government will also allow post-secondary students to opt out of tuition fees that go toward campus clubs and organizations they may not use. Fees will still be collected for mandatory programs such as health and wellness programs. The idea was to “help keep more money in the pockets of students,” said Fullerton.
For the first time in #Ontario, post-secondary students across the province will see their tuition rates decrease by 10% – the latest step in our Government's #ForThePeople plan to keep more money in the pockets of students and families. #highered #onpoli pic.twitter.com/gmHNFJz2zw
— Merrilee Fullerton, MPP (@DrFullertonMPP) January 18, 2019
While the government said the changes will help Ontario students, many on social media expressed their concerns, especially about OSAP.
Words can’t describe how much this move angers me as a first generation student who relied heavily upon scholarships, grants, and #OSAP for undergrad. This change will do NOTHING to increase access to post-secondary ed in #Ontario
— Katie (@KCheliak) January 17, 2019
“I think it’s very unfair to the low-income families, mostly because of the removal of the six-month grace period,” University of Toronto student Valerie McClay said.
McClay said students place themselves in crippling debt to get the education they need.
“What makes the Ford government think that we can pay back our debts right after graduation when we couldn’t pay for it in the first place?” she said.
Ckrhuschev and McClay rely on OSAP to attend university. Like many of the outraged post-secondary students posting on social media, they do not think the changes to OSAP are beneficial for students, regardless of the small tweaks to tuition fees.
The changes will be in effect for the 2019-2020 school year beginning in September.