For Aditya Shekhar, a second-year Math and BBA student at UW, the changes made to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) led to an approximately 30 per cent drop in his academic funding.
“In 2018, my funding was in the $10,000s. This year, I received $7,200,” Shekhar said.
Earlier this year, the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities announced changes to OSAP that received mostly negative reactions from students all over the province.
These changes included altering the eligibility criteria for grants so that fewer can receive them and declaring that a minimum of 10 per cent of OSAP funding will now be in the form of loans.
“If they cannot put their students first, how are they expecting a better economy? By cutting funds directed toward students?”
“It is just not efficient. It is a short term solution [for the economy], Shekhar said.
“The most common changes we have seen are a reduction in grant funding and an increase in loan funding. The total amount, however, remains pretty much the same when there are no significant changes in the student, parents situation from last year to this year,” Maureen Jones, director of Student Awards and Financial Aid (SAFA) at UW, said.
“Students who chose the ‘grant only’ option may see more of a change as a result.”
The cuts have left students searching for alternate options that will allow them to pursue their education affordably.
“After OSAP cuts, I believe there is a higher reliance on other sources of funding [such as] line of credit from banks or temporary loans from parents,” Shekhar said.
“I have friends who have dropped out of school because they cannot afford to go anymore.”
Due to these changes, a fewer number of students applied for OSAP this year.
“We have not experienced a large increase of student inquiries this fall. In fact our OSAP application numbers are down this year over last year by approximately 10 per cent,” Jones said.
Jones advises students to avoid being completely dependent on OSAP.
“Students need to have a complete understanding of the OSAP changes and the specific impact on their funding. Were there changes in their own income or family income or number of dependents that could be a factor?” she added.
“OSAP as well as bursaries and awards, are a source of financial aid that supplements student and family resources. Not one source of funding will cover all of the educational costs. Be proactive and look for alternatives.”
As mentioned on their website, the Student Awards and Financial Aid staff at UW is dedicated to helping students through their financial troubles.
“Students contact our office to understand their OSAP assessment and to inquire about other financial aid opportunities,” Jones said.
“We refer them to the UW Bursary and to our Work Study Programs. We also point to our Undergraduate Awards Database and the link to external awards on our website.”