Hundreds of students have taken to social media after finding out just how much less they will be receiving from the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP).
The Ford government announced changes to the OSAP program back in January after the auditor general found the previous Liberal government’s plan led to a 25 per cent jump in costs and could balloon to $2 billion annually by 2020-2021.
Students rallied at Queen’s Park shortly after saying the cuts would mean they would be saddled with thousands of dollars in additional debt, but they only recently found out how much less they would be receiving.
Brianna MacDonald, a student working towards her Master’s degree in education at University of Toronto, says she fears for her academic success because she is not sure how she can pay for her final year of her degree.
Another student Brianna Watkins says she will be receiving almost $3,000 less than the last school year, with an over $3,000 drop in grant funding and $700 increase in loans.
Under the Liberal OSAP program, families earning up to $175,000 could qualify for some funding and that threshold is now reduced to $140,000. Low-income students could qualify for grants large enough to cover the full cost of tuition under the previous plan, but now a portion of the funding they receive will be a loan.
Liz Fast tells CityNews she will be getting no funding from the Ontario government this year after receiving almost $9,000 last year due to the threshold for family income being lowered. She says the funding helped with book costs and housing.
Hayley Spafford says she was likely enough to receive OSAP during her four years of university, but her little sister who is starting at Dalhousie University for Engineering in the fall will be receiving almost $5,000 less than Hayley was given in her first year and almost $10,000 less than she was anticipating.
She says her sister is working full-time this summer in hopes of making up the difference, but thinks she may have to get a job during the school year despite Engineering programs being very demanding.
Several students have posted graphics, which show not only the reduction in overall money they will be receiving, but how much less is coming in the form of grants that don’t need to be paid back.
Rico Pachanga is a Windsor University Law student heading into his final year and said when he got his estimate on Wednesday, it says he will be receiving almost $2,000 less.
“It’s the grant part that was reduced not the loan. At least, they could increase the loan amount to offset the reduced grant,” said Pachanga.
Jigme Kelsang is headed to Humber College next year and says he will also be affected by the OSAP cuts. “If there is no changes to the program it not only hurts me but it makes it that much harder for my parents to help me pay off everything.”
Emily Challenger is a nursing student who went from receiving over $14,000 to only getting $6,900 in combined grants and loans. She says it will only be enough to cover her tuition and none of her living costs. Emily said she planned on continuing her education in nursing, but that will have to change due to her new financial situation.
The government also said it will cut tuition fees by 10 per cent, saying that will help the students in greatest need, but critics disagree. A 10-per-cent tuition cut would take about $360 million away from universities and $80 million from colleges.
A petition created when the cuts were originally announced has reached over 325,000 signatures.
The Canadian Federation of Students for Ontario has organized a protest outside Doug Ford’s constituency office in Etobicoke on Friday morning in response to the cuts.
Felipe Nagata, chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students for Ontario says some students have seen an almost 80 per cent reduction in OSAP.
“We make plans for our four years or two years, or whatever time you need to graduate and this just back tracks everything we have, folks are having to move back to their parent’s house and commute for long hours and having to take on more jobs,” Nagata said. “We’ve seen students working long hours to be able to afford education already so this is going to be seeing more of this stressful narrative for students across Ontario.”
When asked to comment on student reaction to the cuts, The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities said the cuts they made were intended to restore “financial stability to OSAP, to ensure the program supports the students who need it for years to come.” They also reiterated the 10 per cent reduction in college and university tuition feeds.
With files from The Canadian Press.