Ontario budget has language on expanding OSAP eligibility, launches strategy for international students
After big changes in 2017, the latest Ontario budget hasn’t improved on grants for post-secondary tuition, according to student leaders.
Last year, the Liberal government rolled out its “free” tuition program, which expanded Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) grants to eliminate average post-secondary tuition for families earning less than $50,000.
“We saw how great OSAP has been since it rolled out in September 2017, but the (new) provincial budget doesn’t really expand on or talk about improving OSAP,” said Nour Alideeb, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario (CFS-O).
In this year’s budget, the government said that 225,000 Ontario students are now accessing free tuition, meaning that grants are equal to or exceeding the cost of average tuition in the province. In October, the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development said that around 9,200 George Brown College students received free tuition.
Budget 2018, does have language to reduce the contributions that spouses and parents of students are expected to make towards tuition. While not yet clear on details, the government said the change will allow for students from middle‐income families to more easily qualify for OSAP grants and loans.
Abdullah Mushtaq, director of advocacy for the College Student Alliance (CSA), said that what was announced for OSAP in the 2018 budget, “is basically what was already said in 2016 and 2017” and that the new piece is how parental and spousal income is going to be less of a factor.
Also featured in Ontario’s fiscal plans for 2018 is the announcement of an international post‐secondary education strategy, which includes funds to “enhance experiences for international students on campuses” and “support students with social service and settlement needs.”
Mushtaq said the strategy is “fantastic” and that the CSA will been working with the government to explore issues affecting international students, including rising tuition fees and making sure they feel comfortable in Canada.
“We are seeing a growing population of international students coming to Ontario colleges and while some schools are equipped to handle it, other schools are not,” he said.
Additionally, the budget pledged $3 billion in capital grant funding for upgrades to post-secondary institutions over the next 10 years. The government also announced a $500 million investment starting in 2020 to support post-secondary institutions to do facility retrofits, update classrooms and labs.
Alideeb said that she would like to see more investment in existing facilities at post-secondary schools rather than new buildings.
“I feel like more of that $3 billion should be going to upgrading and improving our institutions and campuses, not necessarily building new buildings that would probably be half empty,” she said.