January 20, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 60  

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NEWS

Gov’t admits OSAP ‘isn’t working’

By Dan Perry
Gazette Staff

In a long-awaited announcement from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, the provincial government has committed to reforming the Ontario Student Assistance Program, reported ministry spokesperson Dave Ross.

“[Minister of TCU, Mary Anne Chambers], did state that she intends to conduct a review of OSAP and criteria to determine students’ financial need, because the current method isn’t working,” Ross said.

The Ministry plans to address concerns that are in line with those raised by the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, said OUSA President Adam Spence.

“During the election, the Liberals talked about comprehensive and consultative reform of the OSAP system,” Spence said. “They know, as we do, from research, the current system prevents advancement, cripples students with debt and puts severe financial burdens on the backs of students.”

Ross noted that one of the particular issues the review will address will be questions surrounding parental contributions to their children’s educational costs. “She wants to change the system so that it’s fair and more students can access financial education,” he explained.

“The biggest thing is that weekly maximums haven’t changed since [1993] or ’94,” said Glen Tigert, director of student financial services and student records at Western, referring to the weekly living allowances OSAP currently allots students. He added that inflation and the increasing cost of living are not considered when OSAP estimates parental contributions.

Spence also called the maximum loan amounts out of date. “The OSAP [maximum loan] is $9,350,” he said, adding that it has remained unchanged since 1993. “Tuition since 1994 has increased 130 per cent and the cost of living has gone up too.”

According to Spence, the average Ontario university student needs about $14,500 per year; if the student receives the OSAP maximum and earns the highest allowed income, that will still only equal $13,000. “And not everyone gets the maximum loan,” he added.

“We’ve got this un-met piece of the budget,” Tigert said. “The cost is $15,800 [annually] to undergraduates living in residence [at Western]; if [a student’s] OSAP is $9,350, that’s a $6,000 gap.”

“At Western, we’ve been able to meet that need through bursaries and work-study programs, but it’s getting to the point where the stresses are starting to show,” he added. “Fundamentally, it’s to the point where the OSAP program needs to be adjusted.”

Spence also reported evidence of students suffering. “There are more students at food banks, more [seeking] private loans or lines of credit, and unrecognized debt,” he said, citing the example of money owed to parents or friends to explain the latter. “People aren’t able to meet their needs.”

 

 

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