Grants or loans?

The most effective method of reducing student debt through financial aid has yet to be determined by Canadian provinces, but advertising grants already available might be the right approach for Ontario. 

This year, Newfoundland and Labrador became the first province to switch to offering non-repayable grants for students in lieu of interest-free repaid loans.

The province will dedicate $12.5 million over the next four years to student grants — 40 per cent of which is student aid and 60 per cent is federally funded. 

While federal funding is a national standard, provincial approaches to assuaging student debt vary.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, 7,000 eligible students can receive up to $2,380 in non-repayable grants. They don’t, however, have the option to apply for a loan from the province if this isn’t enough. 

And in Ontario, anything you’re loaned from the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) beyond $7,300 will be converted into a grant, meaning you don’t have to pay it back. 

With its small student body and desire to swell its working population, a grants-only system makes sense for Newfoundland and Labrador. 

However, for over-burdened Ontario, grants-only may be an unnecessary measure. 

Although unadvertised, OSAP currently offers a fairly generous grant program, the Ontario Student Opportunity Grant. 

For Ontario, it’s more a matter of making the already available assistance more accessible to the students who need it most. 

Reducing student debt means that more students from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds have access to the opportunities incumbent in post-secondary education. 

If each province follows Newfoundland and Labrador’s example to meet the needs of its students equally, there should be no room for crippling student debt. 

— Journal Editorial Board


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