OSAP Changes: How Will They Affect You?
It’s human instinct to be wary of change, especially when something has worked wonders for you, be it your current classmates and teachers, your academic schedule, your social calendar, or the electives you’ve decided to take for the school year.
If any one of these items happen to undergo a major change, the rest will be affected like dominoes. For instance, if you’re being transferred to another school, your social life will for sure take a hit. That’s why it’s understandable that there’s a negative kneejerk reaction when changes are delivered to us. After all, there’s the old saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, you’ve probably come across the quote by Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who was later dubbed to be the “Weeping Philosopher” later in his life, “The only thing that is constant is change” that contradicts the former adage.
Such is the dilemma that faced students upon learning that the provincial government has implemented changes in the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) early this year. Prior to the announcement, it was possible for low-income students to attend college or university free of cost since the Liberal government increased the number of grants to which they were eligible for. However, with the recent modifications to the program, this would not be the case anymore.
Just a few days after the news release of several adjustments made to the province’s financial aid program for education, a number of students took to the streets to demonstrate their displeasure. Nour Alideeb, the Ontario chair of the Canadian Federation of Students, said the amendments would badly affect students from the lowest income families who have relied on grants for their college or university education.
OSAP: Where We Were
To better understand the situation, it helps to take a closer look at how OSAP worked before and how it is working now.
Before, OSAP consisted of two portions: a loan, which needed to be paid back after completion of one’s studies, and a grant, which did not need to be paid back even after the completion of one’s studies.
How the grant is calculated depended on a number of factors such as the school, degree or program, start and end dates, tuition, book expenses, a student’s own earnings, their family’s household income, and whether they classify as dependent or independent. The maximum grant payable for the previous years 2017 until 2018 for university students was $8,700 and $6,900 for college students.
Previously, students who acquired loans through OSAP were granted a six-month grace period before they would be charged interest on their loans. This allowed a reasonable amount of time for them to get settled with their employment opportunities.
OSAP: Where We Are Now
Among the changes announced by the provincial government were the reduction of tuition fees by 10% in all educational institutions in Ontario. Currently, as it stands, Ontario students pay the highest tuition rates in the nation, and cutting the fees by 10% is expected to be a big help. This also guarantees a no-fee increase for the school years 2020 until 2021.
The provincial government affirms that the changes ensure that low-income students have access to the financial aid they need to complete their education. The family income threshold that is necessary to be eligible for the Ontario Student Grant has been reduced. However, for many, this means that lesser students will have a harder time to have access to the grants if they are not eligible due to a household income that is higher than what’s needed.
However, it is the elimination of the six-month grace period bore the brunt of student’s anger about the recent OSAP changes since this means that as soon as they graduate, the interest on their student loans is activated, regardless of whether or not they have a job waiting for them upon graduation. This gives students less time to save up money and pay off their loans after they graduate.
OSAP: Where We Are Headed
How exactly would the changes affect students in the long-term remains to be seen. However, it seems like all the modifications are not off to a good start. Apparently, Ontario’s student loan program can’t accept new applications yet because Ontario’s universities and colleges still has yet to receive the complex government formula used in calculating the financial aid amount each student is eligible for.