No interest relief in sight
By Mark Brown
Part-time students and administration at Western are shocked about a change made to the Ontario Student Assistance Program nearly two years ago.
Part-time students, the only students affected by this change, will no longer be able to qualify for interest-free status on their OSAP loans.
The change in the OSAP program occurred near the end of 1997, but was phased in to allow students time to adjust, said Louis Lizott, new policy advisor for the Ministry of Education and Training.
Although part-time students are not able to apply for a loan under OSAP, there are some part-time students who may still have an outstanding OSAP loan from a previous year.
Before this change, both full and part-time students were able to request form "R" from financial aid services, which would allow students to maintain their interest-free status for that semester, said Christine Lederman, office manager at Western's financial aid services.
Interest-free status will now only apply to students who have a full course load, which is defined by OSAP as more than two courses taken in a semester, Lederman said.
She added she just received notification regarding this policy on Oct. 21 via an email and was not sure where this policy came from. "That's part of our problem with dealing with OSAP we receive notices too late in the process.
"People in the OSAP office in Thunder Bay were quite surprised that people in Western's financial aid office did not see [the email] as a reminder," Lizott said. He added Western has been the only institution to raise this concern.
University Students' Council VP-education, Nick Iozzo, said the change is part of a harmonization process between OSAP and Canada Student Loans. "You want to do everything you can to help students when they are at school, that's when they are most vulnerable."
He added the change will just be another burden on students.
At this point Lederman said she was not sure how many students would be affected by the change.
Part-time students who will have to consolidate their loans while they are still in school will still have access to some protection from interest accumulating on their loan, Lizott explained. Based on the students' financial institution, the student can apply through the bank for interest relief for up to 18 months.