Student victory in loan reform war
By Dave Yasvinski
A major victory was scored for students last week maybe.
After months of trying, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance and the Ontario Community College Student Parliamentary Association are on the verge of establishing a council to examine financial assistance in the province, pending an announcement by the provincial government.
The Ontario Advisory Council on Student Financial Assistance would provide a forum for representatives from the major organizations involved in financial aid, such as OUSA, OCCSPA, banks and others, to discuss the existing aid system as well as make recommendations directly to the minister's office on desired changes.
"This is a major victory for students. There is the opportunity for a lot of input for students to how the [financial aid] system operates," said Andrew Boggs, executive director of OUSA.
Boggs said while the government has approved the council unofficially, OUSA is waiting for the official announcement by Dave Johnson, minister of education and training. OUSA members spent last weekend coming up with proposals to bring before the council, Boggs added.
"We want to walk into the advisory committee [meeting] with something coherent and tangible to bring to the table," he said.
University Students' Council VP-education, Nick Iozzo, said this council has been needed for a long time. "For the last several years there have been so many directives from the ministry about the Ontario Student Assistance Plan. There's no way to evaluate what they've done I don't think they realize the effects of what they've done," he said.
There are many important issues this council will have to address, Iozzo explained. "The big thing is how the coming millennium funds are going to be tied into OSAP, the future of part-time students and OSAP and a re-evaluation of the needs assessment to better reflect what students are really earning and spending."
Iozzo said OUSA will also raise the issue of joining the Canada and Ontario loan systems into one so students would only have to deal with one set of rules to determine income, expenses, loan repayment and interest relief.
Helmut Zisser, director of the student support branch for the Ministry of Education and Training, said although Johnson has not made a public announcement approving the proposal, he is very interested. "The parties most affected would have a common forum to discuss issues of concern.
"The minister has received expressions of support from most of the groups proposed to be on [the council] and many others indicating they would view such a forum as useful and productive in terms of discussing student support," he said.
Boggs said he expected the first meeting of the council to take place in early November and then continue about once a month.