6,000 Kingston students receiving free tuition this year with new OSAP

Ontario postsecondary applications increase by 10 per cent, over 200,000 receive grants

Minister Deb Matthews (center) speaks at University of Guelph
Jasmine Irwin

This year more than 6,000 postsecondary students in Kingston received free tuition through new changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), according to the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development.

The changes were implemented in February 2016, with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government promising free tuition for most applicants, more grants for low-income students and a streamlined application process.

Under the new program, households with an income of $50,000 or less are eligible for free tuition and anyone from a household that makes less than $175,000 is eligible for some sort of funding.

Another notable change to OSAP is the new repayment assistance policy, which gives students more breathing room to pay back their Ontario student loans. Starting in 2018, students will be able to wait until they are making over $35,000 to begin repaying their loans.

Now with the academic year under way, the results of the new policy are starting to take shape. According to the Ministry’s website, “applications to OSAP grew by more than 10 per cent in 2017, compared to last year,” and “more than 210,000 students will receive free tuition,” across the province this year.

Liberal MPP Sophie Kiwala (Kingston and the Islands), said in a press release that the changes to OSAP will have a “generational impact in the lives of students and in the future of Ontario.”

Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development Deb Matthews was in Kingston on Monday to hear from students and to promote the Ontario government’s new policies. In this meeting, Matthews touched on the addition of free pharma-care for students under 25 and the Liberal’s plan to significantly increase the minimum wage.

Matthews also expressed that the government is working to bring British Columbia’s free textbook program to Ontario post-secondary schools.

Brandon Kober, a Queen’s student and one of 6,000 living in Kingston who receive free tuition told The Journal via email that having his financial situation already figured out has allowed him to thrive at school.

“It stands to reason that free tuition for low income students would enhance the accessibility of Queen's to people of all economic backgrounds,” Kober wrote. “That's the ideal, at least.”

“I have used OSAP for the past six years, which has always allowed me financial security. The difference this year, it seems, is the extent to which I will have to pay back a massive amount of loan debt. Now, grants outweigh the loan and I will be trying my best to not touch the loan, if I can avoid it.”

Despite the changes to OSAP, Ontario remains the most expensive province to pursue a post-secondary degree in, with the average undergraduate tuition increasing from $8,114 to $8,454, this academic year.

Furthermore, according to a CBC article, the new changes to OSAP don’t take into account a household’s debt level. OSAP forms only ask the number of dependents attending post-secondary education, parental income and student contributions. As a result, this poses a particularly difficult situation to households with multiple children to put through school and a moderately high income.

“Honestly, I have never felt that Ontario's tuition fees are unreasonable. I see what Americans pay and feel pretty lucky, particularly with assistance like OSAP,” Kober wrote.

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