Unsigned, Queen’s University
Doug Ford’s changes to OSAP (Ontario Student Assistance Program) are causing controversy on campuses all over Ontario. While the changes have sparked protests at universities across the province, supporters of the cuts argue that Ford’s changes will make post-secondary education accessible to lower income students and pave the way to make OSAP a sustainable program for those who truly need it.
It is important to note that I, like many others, am a low-income student that depends upon OSAP to fund my education. I come from a single-parent household, work part-time during the school year and full-time over the summer to pay my tuition and living costs. Currently, my OSAP support consists of approximately 45% loan and 55% grants. The grant amount covers my tuition.
Below is a chart detailing Ford’s OSAP changes on the left and an interpretation of what these changes will mean for students on the right.
|“Students with a family income of $140,000 and above will now only be eligible to receive repayable loans, not grants.”[||A middle-class family in Ontario is defined as approximately $45-$140K per year. High-income is $140K plus per year. These students are still eligible for the same OSAP funding amounts as before, except this will now take the form of loans and not grants.|
|“Increasing the share of OSAP grants for families less than $50,000 a year in income. Going from 76% to 82%.”[||A low-income family in Canada is defined as earning under $44,266 a year. The total amount of funding is not changing, however grants will be increased to 82% of the total OSAP amount.|
|“Tuition reduction by 10%”[||The total tuition in 2018 for an Arts and Science student at Queen’s University is $6,859, not including student fees. A 10% cut will mean tuition will be reduced by $685.90 for all students. A reduction in overall tuition cost will take some pressure off all students. Universities are charging ridiculously high fees and need to be held accountable. I believe every student can agree on this.|
|“Student fees are now optional”[||2018 Student fees for an Arts and Science student is $1084.44. Fees for activities related to the health and wellbeing of students will continue to be mandatory but other fees such as athletics will be optional. For a low-income student, even a 50% cut in student fees will make a huge difference in funding their education.|
|Elimination of the interest-free 6-month grace period. 6-month grace repayment period still stands.||Student interest rates are still much lower than average loan interest rates. The Ford administration says that this change will help make OSAP a sustainable long-term program. Currently there is an option to apply for an interest-free period. Those who are eligible will continue to receive this.|
The bottom line is that Ford is saving money for students. Reducing tuition costs and student fees helps decrease the financial barrier to education. A 10% reduction today could potentially mean the beginning of free tuition in the long-term. This way, the government can redirect the money towards other budgets that help students. Universities are charging high tuition rates in order to make profits and work on renovations. An increase in government regulation to lower rates may help push universities to spend money on things that matter such as student support and mental health programs. Currently our student fees and high tuitions are used to fund athletic teams, renovations to specific buildings, and other projects that not every student uses. However, with Ford’s cuts and new regulations any mandatory student fees will be required to be better budgeted and redirected towards increasing mental health and other wellness services on campuses.
In addition, an increase in grants to lower income students alleviates the immediate financial stress to them and their families. By increasing grants for students from families with less available income, Ford’s changes will also help to even the playing field post-graduation. Students from higher income households have the privilege of financial support that students from lower income families cannot match – a financial barrier that often discourages prospective students from these families from applying to postsecondary institutions at all.
Compared to Kathlyn Wynn’s promise of free tuition for “hundreds of thousands of Ontario students,” Ford’s changes seem mediocre. However, we need to look at the facts.
Free tuition was only ever proposed by Wynn for students from families that made less than $50,000 a year. Wynn also stated that “the new OSAP will also provide more generous grants.” Ford is also offering more ‘generous grants’ by raising grant amounts to 82% of funding for qualifying students. Wynn’s promises may have seemed ideal for lower income students; however, unlike Ford, she offered no changes to tuition for middle to higher income students, whereas Ford does. Wynn’s strategy was used as a marketing campaign to further her own political interests. Our government needs to make gradual sustainable changes in order to assist our generation and the generations after us.
Discussing changes in OSAP is a controversial topic. However, changes need to be made to better help students of lower income and help level the playing field concerning access to education. Many other articles explain how some middle-class students receive more OSAP then they need. Hence, their parents pay their tuition, but they still receive OSAP. This is not fair to students who truly need OSAP. There should be a better screening process for who qualifies for OSAP in order to give the best assistance to students that need the extra help. Students who receive more money than they need can use the surplus to buy luxury items, put it towards investments and/or spend more money on entertainment. As a low-income student every penny of my OSAP goes towards paying my tuition, rent and groceries. Yet, with Wynnes “free tuition” policy my colleagues were able to pay their tuition with OSAP and have money left over to enjoy. Some students have the privilege of having their rent and/or groceries paid for by their parents and yet they are receiving the same amount of grants as I, a student with no external assistance, is receiving. How is this fair?
I agree that Dough Ford’s policies are not perfect and I do not agree with his exact income cut-offs however, I believe that a change needs to be made. My personal opinion is that Ford and Wynn took two extremes without finding a good resolution to the real problem. We need to find a middle ground that reshapes OSAP into a program that assists those that need it.
In short: Ford’s reduction in overall tuition costs and student fees will make post-secondary school more accessible for students of all income brackets. I advise all students to research the facts before hitting the streets and protesting. Ford’s changes are not perfect, but they are more sustainable and will benefit every single student in the long term.
It is time to give lower income students equal access to post-secondary education.
Alini, Erica. “Are you earning a middle-class income? Here’s what it takes in Canada, based on where you live.” Global News. November 6 2018.
Dangerfield, Katie. “$82K a year is ‘low income’ in San Francisco. Here’s how it stacks up to Canadian cities.” Global News. June 28 2018.
“‘Nothing ever stays the same’: Minister defends tuition, student fee, OSAP changes.” CBC News. January 21 2019
Office of the Premier. “Free Tuition for Hundreds of Thousands of Ontario Students.” Ontario Newsroom. March 29 2017.