Reverse Ontario Student Assistance Program Reductions for 2019-2020

0 have signed. Let’s get to 25,000!


We respectfully ask that Ontario Premier Doug Ford, his Cabinet, and his Government return OSAP to its 2017-2018 structure until a more permanent solution is found that can properly balance their desire for fiscal responsibility with student need for tuition and expense relief.

Background

On January 17 2019, the governing Ontario Progressive Conservative Party (PC) announced changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), leaving countless current, past, and future post-secondary students worried about their financial health. 

In a press release, the PCs correctly state that students in Ontario face high tuition costs compared to the rest of Canada. The average Ontario resident must pay $9000 in tuition expenses for one year of a university program, while college counterparts must pay an average of $3400. However, these costs exclude major living expenses such as monthly rent, groceries, school supplies, technology and software, books, entertainment, transportation, insurance, activity fees, and other unexpected costs. Depending on the program and the location of the institution, these expenses can add devastating amounts of debt to students. Though the PCs have also announced legislation that will make non-essential student fees optional, this new legislation fails to address the key issue at hand: students continue to face increasing costs for education, and the most robust support available to them has just been revoked. Many of these additional costs were not addressed at all in the PC Government's press release.

The Ford Administration's solution to this intimidating price tag for education is to cut tuition at schools by 10% and freeze tuition rates for the academic year starting in 2020. Further, the PCs have raised the minimum time to be considered a financially independent student from four to six years. The PC Government has also done away with grace periods for loan interest, allowing loans to accumulate interest much earlier than the former Liberal Government would have allowed. They claim that this will save college students roughly $340 in tuition, undergraduate students roughly $660, and professional/graduate degree students over $1000. While these claims are true, the fact remains that the overall amount of support that many students need has been reduced drastically in the name of "fiscal responsibility".

Impact on Ontario Students 

The PCs have overlooked several very important realities that students face every single year.

First, many students from high income families do not receive financial support for a variety of reasons (e.g. moral opposition, lack of resources/high household expenses, child's desire for independence). The PC reform of OSAP will cost these students thousands of dollars in tuition and living expenses, which could have easily been covered under the previous iteration of OSAP. These students will be forced to turn to private institutions such as banks and credit unions with notoriously high interest and strict repayment rules. 

Second, these reforms will cripple the ability of second-entry students (e.g. medicine, law, health studies) to cover high tuition and living costs. More first-generation law and medicine students than ever before are chasing their dream careers, and these students have suffered a devastating financial blow. Many students, upon graduation, have been forced to live at home with their parents to make ends meet.The PCs have cleverly disguised this as an excuse to cut funding for these students, several of whom must now take out a Student Line of Credit and incur even more debt. This particular decision was also based on the assumption that students living at home do not require assistance.

Third, the reforms will greatly reduce grants from middle income families. While assistance for low-income families is greatly welcomed, this fails to recognize the above challenges that students face in paying for school that are unrelated to familial income. 

Fourth, the Ontario PC Government assumes that a 1% increase for university and 2% increase for college enrollment is sufficient to maintain low-cost tuition for low income families. However, this blatantly ignores the fact that prospective students from low-income families are often discouraged through other means, including career expectations, quality of life, and lack of quality primary/secondary education. Coincidentally, these are other arenas of Ontario life that the PCs have either ignored or inadequately addressed for fiscal reasons. 

Comments from impacted students

"At my last placement, I was talking to one of my Grade 6 students. He said he wanted to come to Queen's [University] and play basketball, but he would never be able to afford to go to university. I was so excited to tell him that he could go to post-secondary for free because of OSAP. No debt, no loans. His household income shouldn't define his future. His dreams just became less attainable due to this decision. This is really disheartening news"

- Jessica, Education Student

"Those who know me well are aware that I have been self-sufficient since 2014 (yes, I have paid all my school fees and living expenses on my own), other than a few highly appreciated gifts from my grandparents. How I did it? I’ve been working since I was 13 years old, and have worked throughout university. I am currently working three jobs in a desperate attempt to decrease the amount of loans I owe and lower the interest (it started at $6/day)... My OSAP estimate prior to this change jumped dramatically from previous years, the only difference that I was now an ‘independent student’ - despite that I am making more money this year than previously. This means when I was going to be getting $20,000 in September, I am now looking at getting $7000 a year again (and less grant, more loan)"

- Blake, Psychology Graduate

What do we want to see change?

We do not ask for handouts and we do not ask for a free ride. We just ask that Doug Ford, his Cabinet, and his Government acknowledge that a simple fix to OSAP is not the answer to the unfair financial struggle that the majority of students face everyday, and to spend more time determining exactly why the Liberal Government felt the need to reform OSAP to begin with. We invite the PCs to survey the affected students who will feel this pinch instead of hiding behind improperly used statistics.

We respectfully ask that Ontario Premier Doug Ford, his Cabinet, and his Government return OSAP to its 2017-2018 structure until a more permanent solution is found that can properly balance their desire for fiscal responsibility with student need for tuition and expense relief.