Government of Ontario: Reverse changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program!

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As the deadline for university applications passed, Ontario students went to sleep nervous but also relieved that the hard part was over. When some of those students woke up the next day, however, they realized that the hardest part might just be yet to come.

This was not because their grades suddenly dropped, or because they applied to programs they were no longer interested in, but because their Government decided to slash the program that financially allowed them to have the dreams of higher education in the first place. 

On January 17th, the Government of Ontario announced a restructured Ontario Student Assistance Program that (among other changes) ended free tuition for students coming from households earning 30,000 or less, eliminated the grace period for loan repayment, and redefined who would be eligible for government assistance.

The cost of higher education continues to skyrocket and become more and more unaffordable for the average Ontarian, not to mention for those already struggling to make ends meet. The proposed 10% tuition decrease and subsequent freeze is just a drop in the bucket for affordability, taking simply $660 (university) or $340 (college) off of the average student's tuition. This is not anywhere close to enough, especially when living costs and other fees incurred while at university or college are generally equal to tuition costs to begin with.

The elimination of the grace period for loan repayment following graduation is also a major cause for concern. By some estimates, it takes the average student 6 months to find employment following graduation. Removing the grace period over this time will only lead to a long life of debt repayment and relative financial instability for many students. Not to mention, the heightened prospect of students defaulting on loans due to being unable to pay to the terms would only equal a greater waste of taxpayer resources over time. 

The current Government is choosing to view education funding and supports as a financial burden rather than the most important factor to maintain Ontario's innovative and skilled labour force, the same labour force that contributes to 38.6% of the national GDP annually. While it is reasonable to control spending, education spending is not like any construction project or even any other social assistance program; investments in education have a direct correlation to future prosperity and growth. 

We are calling on Premier Doug Ford, Minister Merrilee Fullerton, and all other PC MPP's to do their part in reversing changes to the OSAP program and give all students, regardless of socioeconomic background, a fair shot at a future they have worked hard to deserve.