Letter to the editor: Re: Doug Ford changes to OSAP
To say the first six and a half months under Premier Ford and the Ontario PCs have been a wild ride for many in Ontario would be an understatement. This is particularly true for university and college students with the short-lived buck a beer, the end to provincial income tax for those earning under $25,000, a new campus free speech policy and now changes to the Ontario Student Loans Program (OSAP).
Thursday morning the Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities, Hon. Merrilee Fullerton, announced that tuition would be cut by 10 per cent, OSAP would be returning to the 2016-17 funding levels and the six-month interest-free grace period was eliminated.
The first part of her announcement sent university and college administrators through the roof while students felt relieved at saving 10 per cent a year on tuition. For a University of Ottawa student in the facility of social science, this would be about $680 in savings a year or one month’s rent. Students have seen their tuition increase for the past 13 years and the university has turned its back while wait time to access services and classes remains the same.
The previous changes in the OSAP funding were intended to boost post-secondary enrollment within low-income families and mature students. Based on the scathing report by the Auditor General’s report, this program was in fact not benefiting the students who needed it the most, but the program cost was also on its way to exceed $2 billion without providing any real benefit to students.
The Ford government also changed the repayment structure to mirror the federal government program and remove the six-month grace period on interest payments. This move will force students to pay their debt imminently following their graduation or face further crippling debts. When students signed up for OSAP we believed there would be a 6-month interest free grace period to help us breathe as we struggle to transition to the next chapter of life. Changing the rules now is like changing the rules of a contract you signed half way through the deal with no consolation.
This policy is rich when you consider that the government is constantly borrowing money with no plan to pay it back. While these announced changes will foster accountability for us students, both the Ontario and Federal governments should follow their own lead and tackle their debts right away. If the government wants us to pay our debt back the minute we graduate, they should walk the walk and pay their debts back.
— Daniel Perry – fourth-year communication and political science student.