Province to cut tuition costs by 10 per cent, nix free tuition

First province-wide reduction to see OSAP restructure, loss of interest-free grace period

The proposed changes will come into effect for the 2018-19 academic year.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

The province announced new changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Plan (OSAP) on Thursday that—while proposing cuts to tuition—could see out-of-pocket student fees increase.

In a press release, the Ontario government announced their pledge to reduce the costs of publically-assisted college and university tuition by 10 per cent—but will simultaneously cut free tuition forlow-income students with new changes to OSAP. The cuts will come into effect forthe 2019-20 academic calendar.

The expected losses in revenue, according to the CBC, have been calculated at $360 million for universities and $80 million for colleges. Institutions will be expected to absorb the losses in revenue themselves, according to minister of Ontario Training, Colleges and Universities, Merrliee Fullerton.

During the live press conference, Fullerton said operating grants made available to post-secondary institutions will require compliance with the new tuition cuts proposed by the government.

In a statement released the same day, Principal Daniel Woolf said, “The tuition fee reduction will have an impact on the University’s budget.”

He added that the Province faces a difficult fiscal situation, which includes a “significant deficit.” 

The Provost’s Advisory Committee on Budget has been instructed to begin researching the options available to the University going forward. It will provide options within the next two months concerning how the budget will meetthe reduction.

The University will work alongside the government and partner institutions toassess the situation moving forward.

“We will keep you informed of what is learned as we commence more planning to ensure our ongoing financial sustainability and the integrity of our teaching and research core missions,” Woolf wrote.

Meanwhile, individual student savings have been estimated to approximate to $660 for the average university student and $340 for college. The proposed changes will apply only to domestic students.

The Ontario PCs have cited the Liberals’ OSAP spending as their reason for restructuring grants and loans available to students in the province.

“The previous government believed in handing out OSAP money to some of Ontario’s highest income earners with virtually no meaningful criteria for success,” said Fullerton in Thursday’s press release.

In response, the province has announced a plan to cut the overall costof tuition by 10 per cent for all students in public colleges and universities, while focusing OSAP’s resources on families in greater need. This reduction could see students paying hundreds less for tuition, with fees expected to freeze the following year. 

According to the government’s release, students can opt out of non-essential student fees, those which don’t concern health, wellness, or security on campus. 

There is a trade-off, however. To ensure the sustainability of OSAP, the government will be reducing OSAP coverage for those previously receiving full coverage for their tuition. 

According to the release, the cost of OSAP during the 2018-19 academic year is $2 billion, and could continue to rise; the figure doubled initial estimates made of the program last year. 

The Auditor General’s Report cited concerns over the enrollment numbers themselves. Despite increased funding from the past government, enrollment numbers only increased one per cent for universities, two for colleges. 

“The changes to OSAP that took effect in 2017-18 cost considerably more than the Province anticipated, and will likely continue to cost more in the next few years,” the report reads.  

As a result of this, changes to OSAP were released alongside the province’s initial press release concerning the tuition cut Thursday morning.  

While maintaining the current $25,000 annual income requirement for the Repayment Assistance Plan, the Ontario government will begin to charge interest during thesix-month grace period—the period between when students leave their studies and when their loans become repayable.

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Corrections

January 18, 2019

This article originally misattributed Woolf's comments on the Province's deficit to Queen's current financial situation. 

The Journal regrets the error.

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