Many post-secondary students across Ontario are coming to terms with a much gloomier financial outlook this week.
On Wednesday, the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) gave applicants an estimate of the amount of money they would receive from grants and loans to fund their education for the next school year.
Shortly after, OSAP started trending on Twitter as students fired off a flurry of tweets criticizing the changes made by the Ford government earlier this year.
“Some students are concerned about whether they will be able to return to university,” president of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance Catherine Dunne told Global News Radio 980 CFPL.
“A lot of students are recognizing that, in order to finance the rest of their degrees and post-secondary education, they’re going to have to take on significantly more (debt) than they’re used to.”
Dunne noted that the spectre of the added financial burden will weigh on students.
“When students don’t have financial security when they’re attending post-secondary (school), that means that they have to work longer hours or they’re troubled by the amount of debt they can take on, which does have significant impacts on mental health,” she continued.
Dunne, who is also the vice-president of the University Students’ Council at Western University, predicted that the reduction in OSAP funding will have a lasting impact as students move past their time in post-secondary education.
“They may have to delay really significant purchases in their lives,” she said. “I think of things like homes, cars, depending on what type of jobs they can get after graduation.
“All those things are going to be impacted by their student debt.”
Former minister of training, colleges and universities Merrilee Fullerton — who has since been shuffled to the long-term care portfolio — issued a statement addressing the backlash on Wednesday evening.
“Students and their families make great sacrifices to pursue post-secondary education,” Fullerton said. “This is why our government introduced an unprecedented 10 per cent reduction in college and university tuition fees.”
She added: “The auditor general’s 2018 report showed that OSAP expenses would increase to over $2 billion by next year. In order to address the previous government’s unsustainable spending, in January our government announced we are restoring financial sustainability to OSAP to ensure the program supports the students who need it the most for years to come.”
In January of this year, the Ford government announced several changes to post-secondary school funding, including axing free tuition for low-income students and eliminating a six-month, interest-free grace period for OSAP repayment for graduating students.
—With files from Global News Radio 980 CFPL’s Scott Monich and Global News Queen’s Park bureau chief Travis Dhanraj