Photos By: Madeline Neumann
On Jan. 17, 2019, the provincial government announced their plan to roll back tuition by 10 per cent, change the Ontario Student Assistance Program and make ancillary student fees optional, putting into question the tenability of various student organizations.
#BREAKING – Ford government announces changes to OSAP. A larger percentage of grants will go to students with a family income below $50,000. No more grace period for repayment, interest will kick in right away. Student fees no longer mandatory. pic.twitter.com/wryXs3ENt5
— Richard Southern (@richard680news) January 17, 2019
The Ministry of Colleges, Universities and Training announced that as of the 2019-2020, significant changes will be made to OSAP, particularly the Ontario Student Grant, which offered up to $7000 to low-income students.
NEW: Changes to OSAP are coming for the next school year.
“Free tuition” is over.
Every OSAP recipient, regardless of family income, will get a grant + replayable loan. #Onpoli
— Colin D'Mello CTVNews (@ColinDMello) January 17, 2019
The change will lower the family income threshold, meaning families will need to make less in order to qualify for the OSG. The Progressive Conservative government also cut the provincial six-month grace period offered to graduated students, and will begin charging interest on the provincial contribution immediately following graduation.
The PC government also introduced unprecedented legislation to make all ancillary fees optional, making the fate of major organizations uncertain at this time. Such organizations affected include student unions, student publications and public interest research groups, among others.
McMaster University released a statement, in support of the work these organizations do on campus.
“The McMaster Students Union, the Graduate Student Association and the McMaster Association of Part-time Students have always supported a dynamic and inclusive student experience at McMaster,” said Patrick Deane, McMaster president in a press release. “… We look forward to better understanding the new guidelines that will impact these student groups.”
The MSU also put out a statement, condemning the the changes to OSAP and the OSG.
“Grants are a far more effective form of student financial aid than loans. Rolling back OSAP eligibility and increasing loan threshold will increase the debt load on many students,” said Ikram Farah in a press release.
It is currently unclear as to how the provincial government plans on making ancillary fees optional, outside of a mandated online form. Fees associated with athletics, health and safety will be untouched.
Canadian Union of Public Employees also put out a statement, condemning the decision.
“These cuts were made without consultation with the university sector, and will have damaging impacts for students for a long time to come,” said CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn in a statement.
Members of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance expressed concerns, worried the tuition freeze would disproportionately affect international students.
“With the decrease in domestic tuition, students are concerned that international students will continue to bear these costs,” said Shannon Kelly, OUSA vice president (Finance) in a press release.
Sandy Shaw, Member of Provincial Parliament for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas also condemned the changes, arguing it is an attack on student body autonomy.
“Student unions are an integral voice in representing the needs of students to the university and to all levels of government,” said Shaw in a press release.
All changes would go into effect for the 2019-2020 school year.