Prepping students for future

Ian Burns
News Reporter

The Ontario government is touting its record in increasing access to post-secondary education, in a report.

The 2014 Education Progress Report, released on April 6, highlights the province’s achievements in creating education opportunities.

“Our government continues to invest to ensure that students can attend Ontario’s world-class colleges and universities based on their ability to learn, not to pay,” said Brad Duguid, Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities, in a statement.

“By making our post-secondary institutions more accessible, affordable, and innovative, we are helping equip students with the skills and knowledge they need to actively contribute to Ontario’s 21st century, global economy,” he said.

The report particularly emphasizes the 30 per cent off tuition grant, which was introduced in January 2012 in order to help low- and middle-income families send their children to college or university.

About 220,000 students received the 30 per cent off tuition grant in 2012-13, up from 207,000 in 2011-12,” said Zak Paget, special assistant to Duguid. “And we’ve expanded eligibility requirements this year so that about 5,000 more students can benefit from the extra support.”

The expanded eligibility includes students in their final year of a five-year co-op program and students attending private career colleges and other private postsecondary institutions that are eligible for OSAP.

Paget noted students who apply for OSAP are automatically considered for the grant.

However the grant’s restrictive eligibility criteria means that some students have advantages over others, according to Tyler Epp, Director of Advocacy for the College Student Alliance.  To qualify for the grant, a student must be out of high school for less than four years, or six for students with a permanent disability.

“This program strongly disadvantages the mature student population,” he said. “In order to qualify for the grant, a student must have finished high school less than four years before the start of the current school year.”

Epp said that expanding the program by removing the timeline qualifiers would allow more mature students to benefit from financial said.

“This would be especially beneficial as many students who do not follow a traditional education pathway into post-secondary have financial hardships,” he said.

But those who are eligible have begun to see the benefit.

The 30% Off Ontario Tuition Grant is saving diploma students $790 per year and degree students $1,730, according to Holsee Sahid, Humber’s Manager of Financial Aid.

“It’s helpful for a lot of students,” said Sahid. “It’s not very much, but will help with tuition and go to buy a few books.”

According to Sahid, Canadian and Ontario student loans and bursaries given to Humber students, exceeded $100 million for the first time in 2013-14. An additional $5 million was available through bursaries and other financial aid through Humber.