Grants a cause for contention
By Dave Yasvinski
A new grant recently introduced by the federal government for students with dependants has proven more upsetting than satisfying to those who qualify for the funding.
Ontario will receive $38 million of the $100 million the federal government intends to spend on this grant program nation-wide. Of the nine provinces participating in this program, Ontario is one of four that have decided to absorb the grants into an existing financial aid system instead of adding it on top of this assistance.
Daniele Gauvin, spokesperson for the Ministry of Education and Training, said because Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan already have high levels of financial support for students with dependants, they decided to incorporate the federal money into their financial aid systems.
"The federal government chose rather than to give money only to provinces with low levels of support, to provide it to all provinces. We do not use the federal program to increase the amount families are receiving."
Gauvin explained that because students with dependants in Ontario are eligible for up to $17,000 in financial aid and only have to pay back $7,000 under Ontario's loan forgiveness program, the province decided to direct the $38 million to loan forgiveness.
However, the use of this money has some parents, like second-year social science student Janet Logan, upset. Logan said she originally thought the money would be added on to what she receives from the Ontario Student Assistance Program but then found out it would be incorporated into the assistance she already receives.
"It does nothing for me. I don't want it. I would rather get straight OSAP like last year."
Logan said she will still receive the same amount of assistance as last year but now $1,300 of it will come in the form of a grant which may only arrive in December and will be considered taxable income by the province. The money should be taken off January's OSAP installment and not September's, she added.
"They're taking it off upfront. How do I pay my December rent?"
Christina Lederman, manager of financial aid services, said 440 Western students qualify for these grants and although they have received 227 of the grants, financial aid is still waiting for the rest. "It is a real disadvantage to have to wait until November for critical funding."
Lederman explained because students are given 60 per cent of their OSAP assessment upfront, these grants lower the amount OSAP students receive and, subsequently, how much money they are awarded in September.
Lederman said the financial aid office tried to provide students in need with bursaries and loans to help them with their immediate needs. "We would like to see more money in students' hands upfront," she said.
Nick Iozzo, University Students' Council VP-education, said this is part of the reason the USC wants to combine the Ontario and Canada student loan systems. "If there was one student, one set of loans, it would resolve a lot of this confusion."
Iozzo added he is concerned this problem could arise again when the government starts handing out Canada Millennium Foundation scholarships. "The federal government will give students up to $3,000, we have no guarantee the province won't just reduce OSAP by $3,000."
Logan said she intends to file a complaint with the provincial government this week.