Post-secondary students get the bad news about their OSAP grants

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The Spec.com – News
Jun 20, 2019.    by Kate Allen, Toronto Star

April’s budget included a $671 million spending cut to the Ontario Student Assistance Program, and the province announced reforms to the program in January.

Post-secondary student anger crested on Wednesday as Ontarians who receive financial assistance discovered how the Ford government’s sweeping changes would affect them.

OSAP — the Ontario Student Assistance Program — was the number one trending topic in Canada on Twitter Wednesday evening. April’s budget included a $671 million spending cut to student assistance, and the province announced reforms to the program in January.

Students who apply for OSAP receive a calculation in June of how much they will get in September.

Larissa Stevenson, an undergraduate at Trent University, found out that her OSAP grant for next year dropped by $3,000. She already works 20 hours a week while studying and has a summer job.

The change will “severely impact my living expenses and how I’m going to get through this next year,” said Stevenson, adding that her family is not in a position to help with costs.

“It’s going to just barely cover my tuition, and maybe part of my rent. But everything else — the rest of my rent, books, food, groceries, everyday living expenses, I’m going to have to either find money somewhere else or maybe get another job. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

The province also cut tuition fees by 10 per cent in January.

“In order to address the previous government’s unsustainable spending, in January our government announced we are restoring financial sustainability to OSAP, to ensure the program supports the students who need it the most for years to come,” Rebecca Bozzato, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, said in a statement.

“Reducing tuition and increasing the affordability of college and university will help Ontario students get the education and training needed for the well-paying jobs in our modern economy.”

Bozzato pointed to a 2018 auditor general’s report which found that changes to OSAP introduced by the previous Liberal government would drive costs for the program to $2 billion by next year, an increase of 50 per cent from four years earlier.

Stevenson said her friends were “angry.” While tuition fees dropped by hundreds of dollars thanks to the recent changes, her friends’ OSAP funding was cut by thousands of dollars.

“We all feel that education should be a right, not a privilege,” she said. “It’s not something that just people that come from wealthy backgrounds (deserve), and if you can afford it, you can go. It should be available to everyone, no matter your background.”

Abdullah Mushtaq, director of advocacy for the College Student Alliance, said he was concerned about both mature students and those just out of high school.

The former were more likely to have left jobs or taken other financial risks to go back to school, while the latter would be weighing the costs of embarking on a financially burdensome degree program, Mushtaq said.

“All these students and their families are going to have to reconsider whether post-secondary education is a viable option for them,” he said.

Kate Allen is a Toronto-based reporter covering science and technology. Follow her on Twitter: @katecallen

https://www.thespec.com/news-story/9445626-post-secondary-students-get-the-bad-news-about-their-osap-grants/

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