Photo: Amy Yee.
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protestors claim changes to OSAP will make university unaffordable

Ottawa students and supporters gathered at the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights on Jan. 21 to rally against The  Ford government’s recent cuts to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP).

The move will significantly reduce grants in exchange for loans, and comes paired with a 10 per cent cut to tuition fees that students and university staff claim will cause prohibitive budget shortfalls. Some students also risk losing their funding entirely due to several changes in how financial independence from their parents is determined.   

These changes are due to take effect in September 2019.

The planned reduction in tuition fees also includes a new option that allows students to opt-out of “non-essential” campus services and unions dues. However, the loss of revenue to schools will not be offset by government funding.

Chanting students were joined by Canadian Federation of Students Treasurer, Trina James, and Ottawa Centre MPP Joel Harden.

In an op-ed for the Ottawa Citizen Harden describes the new framework as “austerity disguised as relief, and it’s a direct attack on the capacity of campuses to offer necessary programs.”

Dhilal, an International Development student at the U of O, claims the Ford government cuts to tuition fees are “a cover for eliminating support of low-income students, pushing them further into the poverty cycle as other legislation that supports high earners.”

Students from high-income families that currently do not qualify for OSAP grants will also receive a 10 per cent cut in their tuition. Ford’s plan also alters the six-month, interest-free grace period for loan repayment—students will not have to pay for the first six months after graduation, but interest will accrue immediately.

Ashley Courchene, one of the rally’s organizers and vice-president of finance for Carleton University’s Graduate Student Association, says the rally “is how we represent students. We need to start building a movement that’s truly for the students and in their best interest.”

This rally was one of many demonstrations across Ontario campuses that protest Ford’s post-secondary policies. Another protest against OSAP cuts will be held Monday, Jan. 28 on Parliament Hill from 1-5 p.m., in addition to a province-wide protest on Feb. 4.