Shelby Harper, Queen’s University
Following the announcement regarding changes within the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) on January 17, students all around Ontario are left in confusion, uncertainty, and in an uproar.
In addition to only allowing students with a combined yearly family income of under $140 000 to even qualify for the program, the Ford government cut the six-month grace period after graduation that let students pay back loans without accumulating interest. The grace period allowed graduates to obtain a full-time job and begin saving so the cut will result in devastating financial consequences. The Ford government also cut free tuition for lower-income students for families who make under $50,000 a year. This cut devastates students living below the poverty line, impeding their path to post-secondary education.
The Ford government claims that these cuts were to ensure only students “with the greatest financial need” were taken into consideration. But considering approximately 384,000 students across Ontario applied for OSAP in 2017, how is it possible to determine which students have the greatest need?
Ford’s government also announced that they were going to cut back tuition costs by 10%, which, on paper, sounds beneficial for students as tuition prices have risen to ridiculous amounts in the last decade. (In 2009, students paid an average of $4700 in tuition fees, drastically lower than the average of $7500 as of 2019.)
However, cutting back tuition while simultaneously making it more difficult for students to gain access to grants and loans for their education is a double-edged sword. Not only has the cut to tuition negated the financial need of lower-income students but, the cut to tuition has only benefited those who did not need to rely on OSAP in the first place.
This change is forming a class division that should be addressed. They are forcing students in financial need to pay more for their tuition as their OSAP grants and loans are cut. Meanwhile, students from wealthier families are getting the same tuition cut as students in need. The Ford government is neglecting a vulnerable population and favouring the privileged.
Therefore, Ford’s new cut to OSAP only proves that he is not looking out for the students who need help the most. Students who applied and used OSAP’s services were not consulted in the practicality of these changes, and they are not being benefited by these changes.
The new cuts are nothing more than a smoke screen to persuade students that the Ford government has their interests in mind while cutting essential programs that benefited them. Fortunately, students are not so easily fooled. In fact, all across Ontario, students are enraged by these changes. Ford has done nothing but anger a large voting population.
There have been massive student-wide protests against the cuts within OSAP, including a protest at Queen’s University. On February 4th, Students for Ontario planned a Province Wide March all over the GTA, London, Waterloo, Niagara, and of course, Kingston. These protests will continue until students’ rights are addressed.
Students are the future, and they will not accept their education being taken away.
Chioce, Simona. “OSAP applications rise after Ontario streamlines student-aid system.” The Globe and Mail (2017).
D’sa, Premila. “The student, the parent, the graduate: the people hit by Tories’ OSAP shakeup weigh in.” Toronto Star (2019).
Global News. “Ontario government announces changes to OSAP.” Global News (2019).
Howes, Allysha. “Multiple Changes To OSAP Were Announced Today, This Is How They Will Affect Ontario Students.” Narcity (2019).
Porter, Kate. “Students welcome tuition cut, but worry over OSAP changes.” CBC News (2019).
Statistics Canada. “University tuition fees.” Statistics Canada (2019).