“OSAP” started trending on Twitter this month when students applying for their grants and loans realized the very real consequences of Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s widespread cuts to education—which so far have run the gamut from public school teaching positions to post-secondary tuition. On top of the fact that Ontario students already pay the highest tuition rates across the country, they now have to contend with how to close the gap on their funding with only two months before the start of the school year thanks to major cuts to the loan program.
When these cuts were first announced in January, Ford tweeted they were for the benefit of low-income students, which doesn’t seem to be the case from the reactions on social media last week, when many students realized exactly how much they were losing.
I am receiving HALF the amount of #OSAP funding that I received last year. I'm nearly in tears, as I worry about being able to afford school this year. So thank you @fordnation for making it nearly impossible to go to school and shaping our future for the worse. pic.twitter.com/5N8hJPu1k0
— Marianne (@Mariann84249936) June 18, 2019
As for whether schools themselves will make up any of the defecit via bursaries and financial aid, there haven’t been any clear statements or announcements. Elizabeth Church, a spokesperson for the University of Toronto, said, “We know how hard our students and their families work to get a university education. We continually monitor our aid programs to determine what adjustments might be necessary and we will continue to do so in the context of recent OSAP changes.” She did not elaborate on what those adjustments might be for the coming school year.
Meg Peters, a PhD candidate and part-time professor in the Institute of Feminist and Gender Studies at the University of Ottawa, has a stark outlook: “These cuts, alongside other cuts to virtually every other social program in Ontario, will make it so that many of my students will not be able to return in the fall.” Peters, who is also the bargaining committee chair and co-chief negotiator for the bargaining committee of CUPE2626 (the union of TAs and RAs at the University of Ottawa), says, “Even students who do not necessarily depend on OSAP, but have a bursary or scholarship, will be affected by Ford’s policy changes, as universities react to the 10 percent tuition decrease.” Peters sites the recent decision by the Board of Governors from the University of Ottawa to reduce bursaries and scholarships for the coming academic year as a result of the Conservative government’s tuition cuts, and she also notes the added stress and burden of these costs will mostly be felt by financially precarious students.
Daniel Je, a content analyst from OneClass, an online resource for university and college students, believes that universities will start giving preference to international students with higher tuition rates. “International students pay 3.9 times more than domestic students for tuition, and the demand for an Ontario education has increased,” Je says. “[So universities] will look to increase international tuition and international enrolment in response to this.”
So where does all of this actually leave Canadian students on the path to higher education? We spoke with five students on how these cuts to OSAP will affect this coming academic term.
University of Toronto student
How much OSAP are you losing? Approximately $4,000
How will you pay for school this coming year? “I am going into my fourth year, so this is my last year. Because I am from a low-income family, I had enough grants that tuition was free. So, I would take the loans anyway and invest it and make interest off of it. Because of that I have a lot of savings, so I am going to dip into my savings to pay for tuition. With the loans and the grants combined, it’s less than tuition. I am going to have to dip into my savings further to cover the rest of tuition, books, cost of living, food and rent. School isn’t just tuition. I probably spend $1,000 on books each year.”
How much OSAP are you losing? “I am losing 100 percent of my OSAP funding, and this will require me to pay back my loans from last year, starting in July.”
How will you pay for school this coming year? “To cover school costs this year, I will be working a summer full-time job, followed by a part-time job. I am also hoping to get some bursaries but that’s not certain due to more students applying to them this year.”
How much OSAP are you losing? “Approximately $3,000—all of it coming from grants. I typically receive approximately $9,400 from OSAP ($6,000 in grants, $3,400 in loans). Now I will be receiving a total of $6,700 ($3,100 in grants, $3,600 in loans). Even with the 10 percent reduction of tuition, my tuition will still be approximately $7,000. That leaves me a bit short for tuition, but my bigger concern is there will be nothing left for books, TTC, food, etc.”
How will you pay for school this coming year? “I live frugally so luckily I have some money saved up. It probably won’t be enough—definitely not enough for me to finish my undergraduate degree. A part-time job would be desirable, but difficult to maintain because I am a caretaker for my mother who has had a stroke. I have been in the works of starting an online business that will hopefully bring me some supplemental income during the school year. If not, I will have to sacrifice caretaking and/or grades to take up another job.”
York University, Glendon
How much OSAP are you losing? $10,000
How will you pay for school this coming year? My partner is working six days a week (sometimes seven), as we can no longer afford daycare with the cut, which would have given me the opportunity to work, too.
University of Toronto, St. George
How much OSAP are you losing? “I’m losing all of my grants and some off my loans. Last year, I got just under $11,000, with about $3,000 of that being grants. This year, I’m getting $6,900 in loans only. I’m lucky that [my cuts] aren’t as crazy as others I’ve heard about who are losing almost all their OSAP, but that’s still over a semester of rent gone.”
How will you pay for school this coming year? “I’m going to apply for a bigger grant from the university (and apply to scholarships as usual). I’ve applied for grants every year, but they were only around $1,500. The worst part is that I was already going to have to apply for a bigger grant because I stayed downtown this summer to work and therefore can’t save much of the money I make toward rent for the school year. I have no idea whether my application will be successful since it’ll be so massive (probably around $7,000 or $8,000), especially since I’m sure others will be applying for larger grants now as well. I desperately don’t want to, but if worse comes to worst I might have to ask family friends for assistance because my own family can’t help me financially.”