A reform made by the Ontario government in January is intended to make colleges and universities more affordable for mature students. The changes made will take effect for students applying to programs beginning in September 2017.
According to an announcement from the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, “150,000 people in Ontario will be eligible to receive free tuition as a result of the improvements the provincial government is making to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP).”
Mature students whose family income is under $50,000 per year are to be given enough grant money to make their tuition free.
Sean Greson, a representative for Deputy Minister Deb Matthews, told Humber Et Cetera that, “If the new OSAP was in place today, OSAP would provide free average tuition to more than 210,000 Ontario students,” even more than the projected average in years to come.
During the 2015-2016 school year, 13,586 Humber College students used OSAP to fund their education. Of those, 42 per cent qualified for mature student status according to OSAP guidelines, which means thousands of students at Humber will be directly affected by the changes.
“Changes to OSAP will allow mature students to access a wide variety of financial aid programs they were previously excluded from, such as the upcoming Ontario Student Grant,” said Gayle McFadden, national executive representative of the Canadian Federation of Students.
Despite being pleased with the changes, McFadden reiterates that the CFS would like to see more.
“Our main concerns around student financial assistance remain the same: that we do not believe that anyone wishing to pursue a post-secondary education should have to go into debt to do so. Ideally, we are fighting for reductions in tuition fees with the goal of eventually eliminating them,” said McFadden.
“This year, we have proposed to the government a four-year plan to eliminate tuition fees in the province by creating a cost-sharing model with the federal government to fully-fund post-secondary education,” she said.
In response to critics questioning whether the government can afford to implement the reforms, the Ministry representative for Matthews said, “the changes to OSAP are made possible by reallocating existing government dollars that are already supporting postsecondary students and using those dollars in a more timely and targeted way.”
David Kieu, a 24-year-old student in Humber’s Multimedia Design and Development program, explained how OSAP has facilitated his education.
“I use OSAP much more now in my post-grad than in my previous university education, as I am relying on most of my own income in addition to living in an apartment separate from my parents. Low-income grants have been a lifesaver,” said Kieu.
“The changes to OSAP would make me seriously consider continuing education studies in the future.”