Students accross Ontario are facing major changes to the structure of the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) in the upcoming 2019-2020 school year.
On Jan. 17 the Ford government announced many changes to the existing OSAP program in order to save provincial funds and make repayment of loans simpler for students. In addition, the Ford government claims that, with the removal of the interest-free grace period of six months, repayment of loans should be simpler for students.
In a news release, the provincial government states that the OSAP system set in place by the Wynne government was unsustainable. The release also cites a report by the Auditor General, which found that Ontario has spent almost two billion dollars on OSAP in the 2018-2019 academic year.
Reducing fees by 10 per cent for all publicly funded universities and colleges.
Starting in the 2019-2020 school year, publicly funded universities and colleges will be subject to a ten per cent reduction in tuition. According to the news release by the government, this should save a college student $340, a university student in an arts and science degree $660, and university students completing a professional or graduate degree over $1000.
New tuition rates will be frozen for the 2020-2021 academic year.
Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Training Colleges and Universities, said, “We believe that if you’ve got the grades, you deserve access to an affordable postsecondary education.”
Will Wuehr, Communications Director of Ontario Young Liberals (OYL), had a different approach. He said, “The Ford Government is trying to hide their cuts under the veil of tuition decreases, instead of genuinely helping the students who need it most.”
Loan to Grant ratio.
In the upcoming academic year, the minimum loan to grant ratio will be fifty percent — that is, at least half of the OSAP received by a student in a second-entry program or in a program outside of Ontario must be a loan.
Ancillary fees are additional fees that students pay on top of their tuition for services from their universities.
The Ford government has made it so that the option to opt out of ancillary fees must be available online. This does not include essential fees such as university healthcare and dental plans.
Previously, university and college graduates would have six months after graduation when their OSAP loan would not incur interest. That grace period has been redacted and loans will now start acquiring interest as soon as students leave their studies.
The news release by the Ford government states that this change is to “align Ontario’s repayment terms with that of the federal government” and to “reduce complexity for students.”
A news release by OYL expresses an opposing view and states that “The Ford Government also made the process of repayment more stressful for students by charging interest on student loans during the six-month grace period.”
The Ford government has chosen a very targeted approach to financial aid for students, focusing on students with the greatest need. “The previous government believed in handing out OSAP money to some of Ontario’s highest income earners with virtually no meaningful criteria for success,” Fullerton said. “We will focus our resources on the families in greatest need while challenging our partners in the postsecondary sector to deliver better value for the high tuitions they already charge.”
With the end of free tuition, OYL and other youth groups have expressed anger at the changes brought upon by the Ford government.
“Students are counting on the funding they were promised to complete their education,” Wuehr said. “To take that away after the fact demonstrates a lack of compassion and total disregard for young people across the province.”
When Fullerton was asked about student consultation and whether it was considered before the decision was made, she said, “We have been consulting with students all along.”
She could not clarify whether students had been consulted for this particular announcement.