By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
Post-secondary students across Ontario are fuming over massive cuts to OSAP funding.
Throughout today, #OSAP has trended on Twitter as students reveal they’re receiving thousands of dollars fewer than the previous school year.
In January, the Ford government announced it would be making numerous changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program.
These included largely downsizing grants implemented by the previous Liberal government, providing enough to cover tuition for students from families with a household income less than $50,000. These grants were cut by almost $600 million and mostly converted into loans, which students must pay back.
Also eliminated was a six-month grace period from loan payments granted to students after graduation.
The government claims OSAP had become “fiscally unsustainable,” and could have cost Ontario more than $2 billion by 2021.
One Algonquin College student, using the Twitter name @Marianne84249936, posted a picture showing her OSAP funding had dropped from $13,218 in 2018-19 to $6,861.
The portion the student doesn’t have to repay dropped by almost $5,000.
Kayla Weiler of the Canadian Federation of Students – Ontario branch told Oshawa The Express the Ford government has “forgotten” about students and their education.
She said many students didn’t even receive enough OSAP to cover their entire tuition for the 2019-2020 school year.
This will lead to students having to possibly drop out, switch programs or completely change their living accommodations, Weiler says.
For students entering their final year, it may put their post-graduation plans into question, she adds.
Causing more concern for Weiler is how late students are finding out their loan details, as this information is usually sent out in mid-to-late May.
Some online supporters of the Ford government say it is not the provincial government’s responsibility to pay for people’s education.
However, Weiler calls education “a right” for all Ontarians, a right that is being taken away from many. “It’s just another barrier keeping students from their education,” Weiler said.
Mandi Fullerton, MPP for Kanata-Carleton and Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities, defended her government via Twitter, stating it had taken a “responsible approach” to make OSAP sustainable.
“Without any changes, the OSAP budget would have ballooned to $2.7 million by 2023-2024. That is more than double the expenses from 2017 with almost nothing to show for it,” Fullerton said.
Fullerton said the PC’s “historic” 10 per cent cut of tuition fees would help students.
However, Weiler says with many students receiving significantly less in government funding, the tuition cuts will mean little in the long run.
She also noted that international students are getting hit with big tuition increases as post-secondary institutions look to recoup lost revenue.