No Cost Education? Ontario’s Future Proposal for Low-Income Families
On March 1st, 2016, it seemed that parents and students alike breathed a sigh of relief when it was announced in the news that the Ontario government will cover tuition fees for low-income families by 2017. After all, these parents and students know how costly it is to study at a college or university in the province.
The said no-cost college or university education is courtesy of the Ontario Student Grant, which the Ontario government will introduce next year. Once up and running, students from households earning $50,000 or less will see their average tuition fees at a college or university entirely paid. On the other hand, those households with income of $83,000 can still qualify for non-repayable grants for tuition.
An estimated 150,000 students from low-income to middle-income families are eligible for receiving the financial assistance. That is not all. It is said that about 80 percent of current OSAP recipients are expected to have diminished student loan debt compared to existing OSAP rules, while 90 percent of dependent college students whose parents earn less than $50,000 are expected to receive OSAP grants greater than average college tuition.
These figures are promising indeed. However- they may sound too good to be true.
As soon as it was announced, the news did receive a fair share of criticism. The Ontario Student Grant is paved with good intentions, of course, and that is to provide financial aid to students who need it the most. However, an article in Macleans.ca points out the significant discrepancy between what the provincial government considers as an average tuition fee.
According to the provincial government, the average tuition fee is $6,160 for undergraduate studies at a college or university. However, according to Statistics Canada, the average tuition fee is $7,868. That’s almost $1,700 difference—not counting the fact that there is likely to be a tuition fee increase by next year.
Proportion of dependent college students whose parents earn less than $50,000 expected to receive OSAP grants greater than average college tuition explains that the discrepancy is largely due to the fact that the average tuition fee computation did not include expensive programs such as the ones in engineering fields.
Another thing that was left out according to critics was the mandatory fees that students have to pay, which can range from $800 to $1,200.
Still, these critics can’t deny that the Ontario Student Grant is indeed a step in the right direction. Once it is in place, it will definitely be a big help for low to middle-class families. What the provincial government can do is to consider other factors so they can decide on a realistic average tuition cost for students. We are all eager to know more about this proposal, and we shall see if it lives up to the expectations of students who want a post-secondary education.