In January, hundreds of people gathered outside Queen’s Park to protest the provincial government’s plans to cut tuition grants for low and middle income students.
The Ford government announced sweeping changes to OSAP. Grants that many middle to low-income families relied on to in order to afford obtaining a post-secondary education will change. The new rules will not only greatly narrow the number of Ontarians who qualify for grants but also limit the number of those who can qualify to get OSAP loans at all.
The provincial Tories also announced that they would eliminate the 6 month grace period so recent graduates would not have to pay interest. In addition, the grant-to-loan ratio will now make it a minimum that students have to have a minimum of 50% loan – limiting the amount of grants.
Many students and critics have greatly criticized the cuts to OSAP by highlighting how they compound the problem and create more barriers for those who are seeking post-secondary education.
“The Ford government is going after low-income and middle-income students by cutting grants, making loan support harder to get, and cranking up the amount of interest they’ll pay,” MPP Chris Glover from Spadina-Fork York said, “This is going to mean more debt, holding back young people already desperate for relief from debt.”
The PCs softened the blow of these changes by adding that they would cut tuition by 10% and would freeze it at the same rate for the following year. The 10% cut will come from the funding the government pays institutions.
This will force schools to restructure their budget and many are skeptical that the difference will come from the salaries of high-up administration but rather will come from schools’ bursary funds, course allocation, and student support systems.
Glover predicts that courses will be cancelled, classes size will grow, and contract faculty will be laid-off as a result. He added that it is the students who will pay for these cuts by receiving, “two years of a lower quality education — followed by skyrocketing tuition in 2021 to make up for the shortfall.”
Many have criticized that the 10% cut in tuition as deceitful and as a strategic move to distract from the cuts to the grant and loan supports.
OSAP’s crippling levels of interest rates and the huge burden of debt that too many young Ontarians are forced to grapple with has made this a dire situation. Ontarians who pursued post-secondary education are already under stress and Ford’s moves will make future decisions to pursue post-secondary education even more difficult.
The previous OSAP system was rightly criticized because of its high interest rates and its scant debt relief options, but the PC government’s changes to OSAP have made it even more dysfunctional.
“The government should not be cutting grants, it should be converting [already existing OSAP] loans to grants and eliminating all interest,” Chris Glover noted.
One thing we know for sure is that making OSAP more unmanageable and creating more barriers to access post-secondary education has inspired thousands to take to the streets and protest.