Of all the spending details, plans and promises in the new Ontario budget, one got more attention than the rest: a surprise pledge to eliminate university and college tuition paid by low-income students through a retooling of the province’s student aid system.
Here are five things to know about the free tuition and big changes to post-secondary student funding.
The existing grants and loans programs will still be there for students going to school next September. The major changes aren’t due to take effect until one year after that, for the school year ending spring 2018 — which just so happens to be the next scheduled provincial election. Also, in 2017, the current 3 per cent cap on tuition expires, though the grant is indexed to tuition increases.
During the federal election the Trudeau Liberals pledged to hike the Canada Student Grant for low-income students by 50 percent — from the current $2,000 per school year to $3,000.
Though it’s not reality yet, the Ontario government includes that higher rate in their free tuition calculations — calculations they say will ensure low-income students get grants big enough to cover their tuition.
But if Ottawa doesn’t make good on their promise, that would chop $1,000 from the low-income grant totals showcased in the budget, which would leave tuition higher than available non-loan assistance. In this example chart from the budget, university tuition would cost $300 more than the maximum grant without that extra $1,000.
The new mega-program, called the Ontario Student Grant, will absorb other post-secondary grants, such as the Ontario tuition grant, Ontario Student Opportunity Grant, Ontario Access Grants and other grants offered by OSAP. Tuition and education tax credits also get the chop, with that money being fed into the new grant.
While before the grant eligibility of mature and married students was tied to how long they’d been out of high school, that restriction is being removed. The amount contributed by a spouse is also being reduced.
Previously, the entire dollop of grant money wouldn’t arrive before the first day of class. But under the new grant system, all of the money will be delivered in time for school.