Ontario addresses changes to OSAP

Province minister, student alliance respond to questions from The Journal 

Changes to OSAP and tuition fees were announced on Jan. 17. 
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

Minister Merrilee Fullerton is standing by the Province’s “historic reforms” to OSAP in response to a list of questions from The Journal.

Fullerton wrote the changes are intended to refocus support to low-income families. 

“We are restoring accountability, affordability, and access to postsecondary education, while giving more students opportunities to find a job and build a career right here in Ontario,” she wrote.

She also called the ten per cent decrease a measure to put “more money in the pockets of students and their families.”

“It means publicly-funded college and university is more affordable,” she wrote, adding it “gives every qualified student the opportunity to gain the skills and education needed to get a good-paying job.”

The Minister didn’t respond to questions on how universities can maintain the same level of academic and support services for students after the ten per cent tuition cut.

Citing the Student Choice Initiative, which will allow students to opt out of services deemed non-essential by the provincial government, the Minister wrote students will have the “power to choose the services they use and support on campus” to avoid “costly and unnecessary student fees.”

“We are bringing transparency and predictability to the fees at post-secondary institutions by setting a province-wide policy that ensures students have the options regarding non-essential fees while ensuring that critical services are retained,” she wrote.

The Journal also asked how the changes to OSAP will impact low-income students who cannot attend university without free tuition.

Fullerton wrote that “by restoring the financial sustainability of OSAP so it is efficient and cost-effective, it can get back to doing what it is supposed to do— supporting the students who need it most.”

She also maintained that, while interest will now begin to immediately accrue after students graduate, they would still have a six-month grace period where no actual payments will be required on their loans.

“We will maintain the current $25,000 annual income threshold for the Repayment Assistance Plan, ensuring students can get on their feet after school,” she added.

She also pointed out that, under the Liberals, families making as much as $175,000 were eligible to receive OSAP support, which was unsustainable.

Additionally, The Journal asked why the provincial government raised the number of years a student must wait after high school to be considered independent from four to six, and how that would affect students who fund their own fees.

Stephanie Rea, director of communications for the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, wrote “every student, including independent students, will benefit from lower tuition and more control over their student fees” in a statement to The Journal.

Rea also wrote the Auditor General identified challenges with the Ontario Student Assistance Program’s criteria and oversight for independent students.

She added OSAP in its current “is not delivering the desired results,” but didn’t directly answer why the number of years was raised from four to six.

The auditor general’s report recommended an adjudicatory process be implemented to determine whether independent students were receiving funds from their families in addition to OSAP funds.

It didn’t recommend the government raise the number of years a student must be out of high school to be considered independent from four to six.

OUSA response

Representing eight post-secondary institutions in the province, including Queen’s, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance published a response to the proposed changes on Jan. 17.

The Alliance stated that, while it’s pleased the Ford government has initiated tuition decrease through a ten per cent reduction, students are still concerned about the transformation of a grants-based assistance program to a loan-based program.

“Students are also concerned about the impact the reduction of tuition, without restored public funding, will have on the quality of education,” the statement read.

The Alliance also indicated institutions have become more reliant on student fees, both domestic and international, as a source of operating revenue.

“This is not a sustainable model and students are concerned about the impact that underfunding Universities will have on their quality of education,” the statement read.

The Alliance also published a statement in response to the Student Choice Initiative on Jan.17, arguing the government should recognize the autonomy of student unions in their ability to decide what is deemed non-essential through student union referendums.

“OUSA strongly emphasizes that this provision will not only reduce the levels of essential student services and make support services more expensive for individual students, but will also shift the need for such services onto the provincial government,” the statement read.

The Alliance added these student unions “fill in gaps in programming and services where Universities cannot or will not.”

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