On Friday, Jan. 22, MPP Chris Glover (Spadina – Fort York) held a press conference calling on Premier Ford to place a pause on OSAP student loan repayments for the remainder of the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the first wave of the pandemic hit Ontario, the provincial government placed a six-month interest-free moratorium on OSAP loans, from Mar. 30 – Sept. 30, 2020. The government has not brought back the deferral of repayments and temporary suspension of student loan repayments.
OSAP funding was $670 million in 2019. “Over three years, that’s a cumulative total of $2.1 billion in cuts to OSAP support for students,” MPP Glover said during the press conference. “In Ontario, we have the lowest per-student funding, and we have among the highest student debt levels and tuition fees in this province. So when the pandemic hit and students and graduates started losing their jobs, the financial impact was multi-fold in comparison to some of the other students in other provinces.”
Madeline Lemire, a Ryerson University graduate, Brandon Amyot, Constituency Commissioner of the Canadian Federation of Students Ontario and Organizer with Don’t Forget Students campaign, and Tori Arnett, President of the College Student Alliance and student at St. Lawrence College, all joined MPP Glover at the press conference.
Before becoming MPP, Glover was a part-time professor at York University.
He was shocked by the amount of debt that students were accumulating. “Students in my classes were often going to school full time and then working full time to try to manage their student debt, just to pay their costs for going to school. Then after they graduate, they end up paying back their debt for a decade. The tuition fees and the student debt levels in Ontario were unfair before this pandemic began, and now that we’re in the midst of this pandemic and they’ve [students] been impacted with these debts,” Glover said.
Lemire graduated in 2015 and has been paying off her student debt since. Lemire graduated at a time where it was difficult to find entry-level jobs. Still, she managed to get into the workforce and had to make some sacrifices to make ends meet. “I was laid-off in April, and even though I’ve been able to get a contract here or there, I haven’t been able to return to full-time employment.”
Lemire shared some of the sacrifices she had to make. “For groceries, for every month, you know we make sure that we only eat what’s on sale, we’re doing our best to save. You can try as hard as you want but with the current circumstances, it’s difficult, it can be really hard. So, I think putting a moratorium on the repayments, following up with what the other governments in other countries have done, would help a lot of young people, who’ve already had a rough start, to begin with.”
Tori Arnett, a student and mother representing more than 35,000 college students said during the conference that she lives paycheck to paycheck and understands the hardships that students are facing at this time.
“The Provincial government is failing its post-secondary students and its graduates as of late, there have been small wins for the post-secondary sector, but they come in the fashion of too little, too late. The cuts, as they currently stand, are barely enough to cover the basis of tuition and books, let alone the costs associated with daily living,” Arnett said.
Arnett pointed out that US President Joe Biden extended the moratorium for student loan repayments, which have been in effect since March 2020. “Why is Ontario lagging so far behind? To the Ford Nation, please help us now so we can help ourselves, our communities and our economy when the pandemic is over,” Arnett said.
Brandon Amyot, Organizer of the Don’t Forget Students campaign, represents over 350,000 college and university students across Canada. The Don’t Forget Students campaign began in March 2020 to fight for students and recent graduates across Canada.
“I hear from student after student, the real concerns of accessing healthcare and housing, income insecurity is running rampant through this pandemic, and people are struggling with food insecurity. From a recent survey, we’ve known that the majority of students in Ontario are deeply concerned about their financial security as a result of the high tuition fees, and they’re having fewer opportunities to earn income during the pandemic. We have to understand that the pandemic just makes things worse than they already were,” Amyot said.
Amyot said that if the provincial government is willing to help out big businesses during the pandemic, “then students should be no different.”
Amyot also said that the pandemic significantly impacts marginalized students, including women and indigenous and international student populations.
“We can’t leave them behind either, we need to consider them when we’re making decisions at the policy table. The Canadian Federation of Students Ontario and Don’t Forget Students fully supports the official oppositions’ efforts to reinstitute this moratorium, and we call on the government to work with them and to work with students and recent graduates to make this happen and to ensure a just recovery,” Amyot added.
“The current students and recent graduates of Ontario are the future of your economy. We will be the ones going to be responsible to rebuild Ontario when the pandemic is over, we need help to survive this most trying time, and we can’t do it on our own. Our families will not be able to make it through this without your help,” Arnett said, while MPP Glover added, “We need our graduates to be able to fully participate in the economy in order to stimulate growth.”
“I implore the government, and I am begging you, please reconsider reintroducing the moratorium,” Arnett concluded.