Low-income students should have the right to pay tuition themselves

Using student loans to pay tuition fees enables students to spend money responsibly. Taking that ability away manifests stereotypes about how low-income students can’t manage their money.
Before the 2018 school year, students could choose to allow the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) to pay their tuition fees for them. That’s no longer an option. The National Student Loans Service Centre will use your OSAP funds to send money directly to your school. 
OSAP’s new system now pays all outstanding fees on your student account. While this usually just includes tuition, it could extend to library fines or other non-tuition fees which don’t need to be paid to attend classes or write exams.
This results in a subtraction from the leftover money a student uses for rent, bills, groceries and other living expenses. While all fees should be paid, students should have the right to budget these payments in a way that works for them. 
Just because students don’t directly earn OSAP funds, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the right to manage granted money on their own. 
The reality is, they’re going to repay the loans. 
Students spending their OSAP funds on video games, designer clothes, and trips to Europe create a stereotype about how low-income individuals ‘misuse’ their loans. 
This perpetuates harmful misconceptions about the relationship between low-earning individuals and money.
Even if you have the money to buy a nice coat, you shouldn’t, because you come from a low-income family. People on welfare shouldn’t go on vacation or to the movies. If you use the food bank, you shouldn’t eat at restaurants—the list goes on. 
Growing up in a single-parent family far below the poverty line, I remember feeling guilty spending money at restaurants or on clothes when my family depended so heavily on food banks and the charity of others. 
Coming to Queen’s was the first time in my life I didn’t have to worry about money, and the first time I could prove I knew how to use it. After being unable to pay for so many other things, I could make the decision to pay tuition on my own—and it felt good. 
OSAP’s aim is to provide students with enough money to cover tuition and living expenses. But where you come from shouldn’t determine the conditions of those living expenses, whether they be trips to Europe or a meal at McDonald’s. 
Higher education is a right, not a privilege. Making post-secondary institutions inclusive for students from all backgrounds means translating this into the actual OSAP system. 
Raechel is one of The Journal’s Assistant News Editors. She’s a third-year English student.

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