‘More questions than answers’: student governments parse OSAP changes

AMS, SGPS to clarify tuition decrease, ancillary

The AMS and SGPS addressed the new changes to OSAP and tuition fees. 
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

As the structure of Ontario’s university finances changes, the AMS and SGPS are in the dark on the specifics. 

The provincial government announced major changes to the framework of post-secondary education on Jan. 17, ranging from alterations to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), mandatory student fees, and tuition fees.

“There is uncertainty surrounding the future funding of university services and resources, as well as the quality of education, due to a cut in university funding,” the AMS wrote in a statement released Wednesday.

The proposed ten per cent cut in tuition announced by the province will likely require institutions to make up millions in funds, leaving members from all levels of the university wondering how the overall budget will be affected.

In its statement, the AMS said that, while a tuition decrease will provide students with financial relief, reducing OSAP eligibility and replacing grants with loans will “negatively affect students who require financial assistance.”

The Ford government has also proposed the Student Choice Initiative, which will allow students to opt out of all non-essential fees. 

While the Ford government has said walk-safe programs, health and counselling, athletics and recreation and academic support will remain mandatory fees, there was no explanation for which services will fit into those categories.

“There are more questions than answers from this statemen,” the AMS said, adding the Society, along with the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA), is “concerned about the impact this will have on its ability to provide critical services to students.”

While the Ford government is promising a ten per cent tuition decrease for undergrad students, graduate and professional students will see their tuition decreased by only a thousand dollars.

SGPS President Tyler Morrison doesn’t know where that number is coming from.

“Put it this way,” he said in an interview with The Journal. “There’s not a law school in Ontario where a ten per cent tuition reduction would only be a thousand dollars.”

Morrison told The Journal the ambiguity of the Ford government’s announcement has left him unable to explain to students what their next years will look like.

While Morrison said he’s had discussions with different members of University administration about the proposed changes, he said they don’t know much more than anybody else.

“The unknown hinders our ability at the SGPS to educate students and also begin to make moves that could sustain the viability of the society,” he said.

Something Morrison is also concerned about is how the Ford government will decide which student fees are essential.

“The unknown is a little bit scary,” he said. “It’s very much our view that a lot of what we do is essential academic support.”

The Society provides students with services like emergency bursaries and community building events. The problem, according to Morrison, is both of these are funded through the same student fee.

“What happens when they say your emergency bursary is an essential service but the social events of the community building events you hold aren’t essential services?” he asked. “To even begin to make moves to prevent something like that from happening, I need to know what they’re talking about and the statement is just so ambiguous.”

Morrison is also concerned about the Ford government’s redefinition of an independent student from four years to six after high school graduation.

He believes this decision stemmed from the auditor general’s report released last year which recommended an adjudicatory process be implemented to determine whether independent students were receiving OSAP grants and money from their parents at the same time.

Morrison said this is both over-inclusive and under-inclusive.

“There’s still going to be people abusing [the OSAP system] who are more than six years out and come from wealthy families or aren’t necessarily in the most need,” he said. “But now you’re going to have students who are five years out of university who are in the most need but don’t qualify as independent.”

Morrison said he shares the government’s goal of making OSAP more sustainable but called this an overcorrection.

“It’s gone too far,” he said. “That’s a direct hit to graduate and professional students.”

Morrison, however, is remaining optimistic.

“We will get to the bottom of it, and we will ensure that, just like the University, essential services are not cut, and that you still, as a student, will still have access to our bursaries, our grants, the student advisors,” he said.

When asked if he believed there was hope for change, Morrison said yes.

“Maybe a little hopelessly optimistic, but I think doing nothing and not pushing back is not the solution either,” he said. “As students, we need our voices to be heard.”

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