Recently, the Ontario government made a $400 million cut to OSAP. For many, this change flew under the radar, but the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) is hoping to change that.

In response to the large funding cut, OUSA sent a letter to the Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano, asking the provincial government to “Stop OSAP Clawbacks” and reverse it. However, neither Romano nor his office replied to their letter. So in response, OUSA has published the letter and is looking to gather public support in order to force the government’s hand.

This cut to funding was prompted by a recent decision from the federal government to double the Canada Student Grant for the 2020-2021, 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years. In an attempt to realize cost savings with OSAP, the province made the $400 million cut, effectively undercutting the federal grant increase.

As a member of OUSA, Brock University Students’ Union (BUSU) has been a strong advocate for reinstating this funding, as well as a number of other priorities to help tackle the issue of affordability, which is top of mind for many undergraduate students.

“Looking at the Ontario Undergraduate Student Survey, affordability has been a top priority for students in the last three surveys,” said Austin Hurley, Vice President, External Affairs (VPEA) at BUSU. “When you don’t give the relief that students need to make it through this, it’s going to hit people.”

None of this has been made any easier during the pandemic. Hurley has met with many students to discuss the financial impacts the pandemic has had on them. This has made tuition a greater burden for undergraduate students at Brock and throughout Ontario. This cannot stand, says Hurley.

“We want to foster an environment here in Ontario wherein you can not worry about your loans and interest and the money you are making, but you can focus on your studies,” said Hurley.

Hurley and OUSA are currently awaiting a response from the government, but in the meantime they are continuing to set up meetings with MPPs, government officials and more to make their case for not just reinstating the provincial funding, but a handful of other recommendations as well.

One of those is to eliminate the parental, spousal, and student expected contribution amount from their OSAP calculation formula. This is the amount of money, based on the reported income in your OSAP application, that the government expects you, your spouse and/or your parents will contribute to your tuition. This is used to reduce the amount the province pays out in OSAP.

“There are a handful of Brock students that have reached out to me who don’t receive help from their parents or spouse to pay for school, but they’re ineligible for OSAP aid because of their parent or spouse’s income,” said Hurley. “So what are they supposed to do?”

OUSA is also advocating that the government reinstate a moratorium on OSAP payments and interest accrual until September 2022, as well as a permanent two year grace period for paying back OSAP.

“This is to ensure graduates are in a financially stable position before requiring them to pay back,” said Hurley.

As of writing this article, OUSA has yet to receive a formal response from the government. However, they are committed to continuing to pressure the province on this important issue of affordability and fairness for Ontario students.

To keep up with OUSA and the advocacy work that they do on behalf of Ontario undergraduate students, head over to their website: https://www.ousa.ca/.