Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) applications for the 2020-2021 academic year opened on May 20. The application now requires students to complete a mandatory “information module” that purports to highlight financial literacy. Students are disappointed in this addition to the OSAP application process, which is both patronizing and does not address the true financial barriers to post-secondary education.
“Students face barriers repaying student debt because of the high cost of education, not because of a lack of financial literacy,” said Kayla Weiler, Ontario Representative of the Canadian Federation of Students, “what students really need is more grants instead of loans, and greater public investment into post-secondary education to reduce and ultimately eliminate tuition fees.”
The Ontario Government slashed OSAP by $670 million in 2019, decimating the availability of non-repayable grants. These cuts forced students to take on increased work hours and private loans, while some were unable to return to school at all. The current crisis is exacerbating the precarious financial realities that students already face, leaving an increasing number of students uncertain if they will be able to begin their studies or return to school this fall.
While the Federal Government has introduced student supports, further investment is needed from the Provincial Government to truly address financial barriers to post-secondary education. If the Ontario Government truly believes that “investing in higher education is one of the most important investments a person can make in their future,” as Minister Ross Romano said, it’s time for the Ministry of College and Universities to lead by example and invest in Ontario’s collective future.