Ontario undergraduates are not at a loss for words when it comes to how they feel about changes to student aid made by the Ontario government — and they’re now launching a letter-writing campaign to the premier and MPPs.
“We want the provincial government to understand how the changes to OSAP are affecting students and we wanted the information to come from students themselves,” said Shawn Cruz of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, who recently graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University.
“They are working several part-time jobs and OSAP is covering the gap between employment and what they need for school,” he added. “We wanted the government, particularly (post-secondary) Minister Ross Romano and the premier to understand access to post-secondary education is an investment in Ontario’s future.”
The hope, he added, “is that through seeing these testimonials for themselves, they understand that students are continuing to struggle,” even with the government’s 10 per cent tuition cut, by cutting back on courses or even taking time off to save money.
In January, the government announced it was ending the Liberals’ free tuition plan, which had been slammed by the auditor general last year for its skyrocketing costs — estimated to balloon to $2 billion annually, more than 50 per cent higher than originally planned — with no evidence it was achieving its goal of attracting more low-income teens.
The Tories replaced it with a system of loans and non-repayable grants, and said no student whose family earns more than $140,000 would be eligible for any grant.
The undergraduate alliance, which represents 150,000 students, is asking the province to stop the changes — which took effect for this school year — and hold consultations.
Romano, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, said in a statement that “students and their families make great sacrifices to pursue post-secondary education. For them, every dollar counts. That is why our government made changes to the post-secondary education system to ensure that it’s sustainable, affordable, and delivers results for students.”
He noted tuition went down by one-tenth this fall for all university and college students, and that student aid is now “sustainable and viable for future students” and focused on providing “funding to families with the greatest financial need.”
Liberal MPP Michael Coteau — who is also running to be leader of the provincial party — has gone after Romano on social media about the cuts.
“I am the first member of my family to graduate high school and university. I could not have attended Carleton University if it were not for OSAP,” said Coteau. “Countless students have found their OSAP funding — which for many meant their tuition was essentially free — had been cut in half and changed from grants to loans. This has created widespread stress for students and parents.”
The letter-writing campaign runs to Oct. 7.
The NDP’s post-secondary critic, MPP Chris Glover, said it is “absolutely essential that these stories be told. Ford needs to hear directly how his cuts to OSAP are forcing some students to study part-time and other students to give up on their dream of post-secondary education.”
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