Students to protest OSAP changes on campus

Protest scheduled to take place at University and Union

The protest will take place at noon on Tuesday, Jan. 22. 
Journal File Photo

Last Thursday, Ontario’s government released sweeping changes to OSAP—and on Tuesday Queen’s students will take to University and Union to protest the decision.

Following the Ford government’s announced changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program, students Samantha Hartmann, ArtSci ’19, and Lucas Borchenko, ArtSci ’21, have organized a protest at the corner of University and Union for noon on Jan. 22.

Although the province’s revised program will include a 10 per cent cut to all post-secondary tuition in Ontario, students have expressed concerns over revisions to the OSAP system. 

The free tuition grant program will be eliminated, alongside the six-month interest-free grace period. Cutting the grant program means that no student, regardless of income, will be entirely covered by OSAP, and axing the grace period means students will have to start paying interest on loans immediately after graduation.

Within 45 minutes of the government’s Jan.17 press release, Hartmann and Borchenko created a Facebook page for the protest and were active in publicizing the event across social media.

“We kind of saw this coming with all the other changes that came with the Ford government,” Hartmann told The Journal in an interview.

According to Borchenko, other student groups at universities across Ontario, including the University of Toronto, McMaster, Ryerson, Guelph, and Laurier—as well as high school students in Toronto—have been active in the wake of the announcement.

Ahead of the Queen’s protest, red felt squares will be distributed for students to wear.

“The red square is a show in solidarity with students around the province who are seeing their tuition go up because of the OSAP cuts,” Borchenko said. “It was what was used in the 2012 Quebec protests when they saw their tuition increase.”

However, Hartmann said there are students with negative commentary about the protest, arguing that the new changes improve the OSAP system.

Regardless, the event has gained traction. At the time of the interview, according to Hartmann, the Facebook event had over a thousand people listed as interested, with over three hundred marked as going.

Hartmann hopes the protest won’t be the end of students’ efforts—post-protest events have already been lined up and will be announced shortly, she said.  

For students unable to attend Tuesday protest, Hartmann and Borchenko plan on circulating a petition the same day. In addition, they plan to release a draft letter that students can mail to their MPP’s. They will be attaching a contact list for every MPP in Ontario alongside the letter so that students have easy access to that information.

“People can send emails or phone calls and make sure that their local representative knows that this is an important issue to them,” Borchenko said. “On the campus, I hope that we send the university a message that we really care about OSAP.”


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