October 1, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 19  

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Student reps applaud plan to reform OSAP

By Laura Katsirdakis
Gazette Staff

Many can agree the Ontario Student Assistance Plan needs improvement. At the University of Toronto, both student groups and administration have come together to devise a plan on how OSAP should be improved.

The process for developing a proposal to improve OSAP has been on-going for over a year, said Chris Ramsaroop, president of the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students at U of T. The result is a 13-step plan, which was recently agreed upon and put online, he explained.

"There were three student groups involved - the Graduate Students' Union, the Student Administrative Council and [APUS]," Ramsaroop said. "The 13-step plan represents the point of intersection between the administration and students."

Ramsaroop added he was concerned about how the plan was being pushed. If it is used to further raise student debt, he noted, APUS would withdraw their support for it.

"The [13-point] plan is intended to benefit all post-secondary students in Ontario," said Alex Artful-Dodger, VP-operations for SAC. "We felt the need to back up our points with hard data," she explained. For example, Artful-Dodger said a consulting firm was hired to research the cost of living for students in various situations in different cities in Ontario.

Some of the main issues the plan addressed were aid for part-time students, raising the limit of OSAP students can receive and giving students comprehensive reports on why they did or did not get the amount of assistance they applied for.

"SAC is 100 per cent behind this plan - we only hope the provincial government [whichever party wins this week's election] will listen to the suggestions," Artful-Dodger said. "The plan was released formally to all three major provincial parties [two weeks ago]," Artful-Dodger said, adding they are now waiting for a response.

All students in Ontario get the same maximum amount of assistance, but this does not take into account it costs far more to live in some cities than others, Artful-Dodger said.

Glen Tigert, director of Western's student financial services, said any kind of OSAP reform would be welcome. He added he agrees with most of the 13 points.

"The maximum amount a student can receive in an OSAP loan has not gone up since 1995, yet tuition has gone up more than 130 per cent in that period," said Dave Ford, VP-education for the University Students' Council at Western.

"There is an intense need to look at access to post-secondary education," said Adam Spence, executive director of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance. "This is the right time for issues of reform to student aid - the OSAP system hasn't been reformed in about 10 years."



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