Ontario budget to eliminate tuition for low-income families

Plan for expanded grants in Ontario budget applauded by student groups

“For college and university students who come from families with incomes of less than $50,000, average tuition will be free,” said Ontario’s minister of finance Charles Sousa in his speech announcing the 2016 Ontario budget.

The government plans to scrap tuition and education tax credits replacing them with non-repayable grants that will be given upfront to students by 2017-18. The budget says that no student will receive less than they did through the current Ontario Tuition Grant. OSAP debt levels will be capped at $10,000 a year for high-income families.

“Tax credits did not provide assistance when students needed it, and they diverted aid money to those who did not need the help,” said Nestico-Semianiw, President of Ontario University Student Alliance. “For years, OUSA has led the push for tax credit funds to be repurposed into effective, up-front aid, and now that’s exactly what we’ll be seeing.”

The Ontario government said that they are merging existing financial assistance programs and grants offered by OSAP into a single program called the Ontario Student Grant.

In the lead-up to the 2015 federal election, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals pledged to increase “the maximum Canada Student Grant for low-income students to $3,000 per year for full-time students, and to $1,800 per year for part-time students.” The Ontario Liberal’s budget promises for post-secondary students are depend on its federal counterpart delivering on their campaign promise.

“We have a lot to celebrate today with this commitment to fairness, equity and justice for students,” said Gabrielle Ross-Marquette, national executive representative for the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario. “We hope this commitment will carry on into the development of a new tuition-fee framework that can build upon this investment and make higher education more affordable for all Ontarians.”

The government is getting rid of the rule that limits the Ontario Tuition Grant to students who entered college and university within a few years of from high school, meaning mature students will now be able to qualify for the grants.

Several post-secondary advocacy groups, including Colleges Ontario, Canadian Federation of Students—Ontario, and the College Student Alliance recommended removing the limit in the lead up to today’s announcement.

“There is a clear commitment to college education and helping greater numbers of students pursue the career-specific programs at colleges,” said David Agnew, president of Seneca College and chair of Colleges Ontario.

The budget allocates $97 million over three years to support initiatives to help First Nation, Métis and Inuit students, of that $5 million is for the province’s nine Aboriginal Institutes.

“Currently, there are multiple barriers hindering Aboriginal learners, mature students and mature students with dependents from accessing PSE (post-secondary education),” says Ciara Byrne, director of advocacy for the College Student Alliance (CSA). “Today’s announcement showed the government’s commitment to making PSE accessible to all students. CSA is proud to be part of the process.”

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Ontario budget to eliminate tuition for low-income families