Ontario expands free tuition program to paramedic and lab tech students, Ford says

Ontario Premier Doug Ford was joined by Health Minister Sylvia Jones and Minister of Colleges and Universities Jill Dunlop for a news conference at the London-Middlesex Paramedic Services' Headquarters to announce the expansion of the Learn and Stay grant. Andrew Graham / 980 CFPL

Ontario is expanding a grant that sees the province pay for tuition for students who enrol in some health-care programs.

The province’s Learn and Stay grant, first announced back in March 2022, will now cover tuition and other costs for paramedic and medical laboratory technologist programs in return for individuals working in the region where they studied for two years.

Premier Doug Ford made the announcement in London, Ont., on Friday morning at the Middlesex-London Paramedic Services’ Headquarters, saying the initiative will help 2,500 post-secondary students.

“[It’s] another innovative solution that’s connecting people to care, closer to home,” Ford said. “It’s one more way we’re making sure that all Ontarians in every corner of the province, no matter where they live, have more convenient access to the care and support they need.”
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The government says it has committed $61 million over the next three years for the Learn and Stay grant.

The expansion comes one day after the Ford government said it is planning new legislation to allow health-care workers from other Canadian provinces to immediately start practising in Ontario in an effort to shore up staffing across hospitals.

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“We know the status quo isn’t working, so we need to move forward with bold initiatives to add more health care professionals in Ontario and especially in rural and remote communities,” said Sylvia Jones, deputy premier and minister of health.

“Expanding this grant beyond nursing, to include two additional health-care roles in high demand will help ensure that Ontarians, no matter the size of their community, will receive the care they need,” she said.

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Students eligible for the grant will receive full and upfront funding for tuition as well as books and other direct educational costs in return for “working and caring for people in the region where they studied for a term of service after they graduate.”

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Applications for the 2023-24 academic year open this spring in the following programs and regions:

  • nursing programs in northern, eastern and southwestern Ontario
  • medical laboratory technologist/medical laboratory sciences programs in northern and southwestern Ontario
  • paramedic programs in northern Ontario

Jill Dunlop, minister of colleges and universities, called the grant expansion a “historic investment in our students and in the future of our health care workforce in Ontario.”

“By providing targeted financial incentives to encourage students to learn and work in priority communities, the expanded Learn and Stay grant will ensure that our health-care professionals get the training they need to make immediate impacts in local hospitals, long-term care homes and other health care facilities after they graduate,” she said.

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According to the ministry of health, more than 12,000 new nurses registered to work in Ontario last year, almost 6,000 of them being internationally educated, Jones said. Identified as a “record-breaking year,” the ministry said an additional 30,000 nurses were studying at college or university.

As part of the Learn and Stay grant, $81 million will be used to expand the Community Commitment Program for Nurses for up to 1,500 nurse graduates in 2022-23 and 2023-24 to “receive full tuition reimbursement” in exchange for two years of committed practice in a growing community.

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The ministry said in a news release that “the program is responsive to evolving labour market needs and could be tailored for any program, profession or region.

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“In future years, the grant may be expanded to include more programs and regions to help respond to localized labour market needs in underserved communities in Ontario.”

For more information about the Ontario Learn and Stay grant such as eligible institutions and requirements, visit Ontario’s Stay and Learn Grant website.

— with files from Global News’ Colin D’Mello and Andrew Graham.

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