By BRIENAH CASSAR
Ontario students’ futures and education may be changing for the worse after new Doug Ford government changes the Ontario Student Assistance Plan (OSAP).
On Jan. 17, the Ontario government announced that it was eliminating free tuition for low-income students.
Before these new laws kicked in, students whose families’ income was $50,000 or less would receive free average tuition. This means that OSAP grants would equal or exceed the tuition costs.
Seventy-six per cent of OSAP funding went to low income families making under $50,000 a year. That amount has been increased to 82 per cent, making up for the free tuition cut.
But even so, OSAP is also changing the grant-to-loan ratio to a minimum of 50 per cent loan. This means that 50 per cent or more of OSAP funding to students will be a loan and the rest will be grants.
More loans mean more for the students to pay back.
The reason this is being done is to save the government money in the long run. More money will be paid back rather than kept through grants.
Because low-income families will no longer get free tuition if they make under a certain amount, it will be harder for students from these families to go to school and pursue the careers they want to.
The previous Liberal government had increased the number of OSAP grants but recently the province’s Auditor General (an assembly that conducts value-for-money and financial audits of the provincial government, its ministries and agencies) warned that costs associated with the OSAP grant program had risen by 25 per cent.
This resulted in the Progressive Conservatives reducing the family income threshold required to qualify for OSAP funding.
Eligible low-income students can still qualify for funding to cover their tuition fees but part of it will be a loan rather than a grant.
During the same time the government made changes to OSAP, Ontario also announced a 10 per cent decrease in university and college tuitions for the 2019-2020 year.
These cuts mean college students will pay about $340 less in tuition, and university students about $660 less.
Although tuition costs will be slightly less, students will be getting more loans and less grants. A couple hundred dollars off tuition is nothing compared to the amount of money students will have to pay back once their schooling is complete.
Not only that, the loss in revenue will amount to $360 million for universities and $80 million for colleges meaning the schools will have to make up the loss somewhere.
If cutting so little off tuition and giving students greater debt causes the schools to lose mass amounts of money, it hardly seems worth it.
On the plus side, students will be able to choose which additional fees they want to pay, whether that be clubs or campus organizations, rather than be forced to pay for them all even if they never make use of them.
Additional fees that the students choose to pay for can add up to $2,000 extra.
The fees they can choose from exclude health services and athletics fees which are mandatory and part of tuition.
Aside from OSAP funding cuts, the thing most students are angry about is the elimination of the interest free, six-month grace period after students graduate.
This grace period allowed students six months to get a job, earn money, and be more prepared for supporting themselves while also repaying their loans.
Now with the new laws, students are required to start paying back student loans as soon as they possibly can after graduation or risk gaining too much interest on their dormant loans.
This means many students will most likely struggle after graduation. They will need to set up a job before they graduate and start immediately after in order to stay on top of their loans.
That’s much easier said than done.
Many employers don’t even look at someone’s resume if they haven’t finished the required education, let alone hire them before they’ve completed it.
Very few, if any at all, are pleased with the decisions the Ontario government has made regarding OSAP and student funding.
Whether the new laws play out as planned or not, all students can do is watch as they unfold.