Fredericton, NB- Yesterday, the Ontario government announced sweeping changes to tuition, financial aid, and mandatory fees. These changes include cuts to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) grants, a reduction in domestic tuition by 10 per cent, and the elimination of “non-essential, non-tuition fees.”
As an organisation which exists to advocate for greater affordability, accessibility, quality, and the increased role of student’s voice, this announcement is alarming in several respects.
Under the new changes to OSAP, grants will predominantly be provided to students whose income is less than $50,000, with a reduction in grant size.
“For students from low and middle-income families, this means that they will be expected to pay more out of pocket, which will be significantly burdensome due to the cut of the 6 month OSAP interest-free repayment grace period,” said Emily Blue executive director of the NBSA.
New Brunswick’s targeted free tuition programs were modeled after OSAP. Our programs, the Free Tuition Program and Tuition Relief for the Middle Class provided support to 7,744 New Brunswick students in the most recent academic year (2017-2018). These programs have helped to reduce the financial barriers to accessing postsecondary education.
The announcement also highlighted tuition reduction for domestic students by 10 per cent. This reduction will result in annual decreased institutional revenue by $450-500 million, or roughly 3 to 4 per cent of total revenue.
The elimination of “non-essential non-tuition” fees is also certain to have negative impacts on student life in Ontario. Students could lose access to clubs, societies, beneficial programs, scholarships, valuable experiential learning, and campus employment opportunities.
“These changes will greatly hinder the student voice and student representation at the institutional level and all levels of government, diminishing the overall post-secondary student experience in Ontario,” said Brianna Workman, chair of the NBSA board of directors.
The New Brunswick Student Alliance is joining StudentsNS and the University of Prince Edward Island Student Union to stand in solidarity with the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance and the College Student Alliance in urging the Ontario Government to consider the detrimental impacts of these decisions.