OSAP for all struggling

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

January 25, 2008 Ed Cartoon

A university education is expensive, and as such difficult for many to afford, specifically for a large number of students in the middle-income bracket.

Whereas OSAP concentrates on lower-income families, providing loans for those whose families do not have the income to go to school, many with slightly higher family incomes are left out in the cold.

What is not factored in by OSAP are living expenses that may prevent middle-income students from paying for education. It’s easy to assume parents have the income to pay their child’s tuition, but that is not always the case.

This forces a number of students near the OSAP margin to work part-time or even full-time jobs in addition to their studies. This additional work can hinder a student’s grades or cause them excess stress.

Bank loans are available to students who don’t qualify for OSAP " middle-income families are far more likely to obtain an external loan than lower-income families.

However, it’s an unfortunate situation to have to shoulder so much debt at such a young age. It is very difficult to dig yourself out of that hole.

Loans are an unfortunate fact of life that we will all eventually deal with, but later debt burdens will be even tougher for students who are already behind because of extensive school loans.

One possible solution is to restructure OSAP. Its concentration on lower-income students could certainly be perceived as unfair.

However, fair or unfair, the money simply is not available to increase loans under the current system. As such, increasing OSAP coverage for middle-income students would mean depriving lower-income families of loans.

A budgetary shift, then, is required to meet these needs. But the money would have to come from somewhere and a shift cannot be made without raising taxes or making sacrifices to other provincial services.

With that said, other provinces have done a much better job providing funding for their citizens to attend university. While the financial issues are still difficult, Ontario needs to follow in the hope of improving the financial assistance system.

Education is likely more fulfilling if you have paid your own way, but that’s little consolation to students walking out of Western’s gates with $30,000 debt, much less students who can’t afford to go at all.

Difficult as it may be, Ontario and Western both need to concentrate on scholarships and loans in order to increase accessibility to education.

Ontarians need to be less shortsighted and prioritize education as an important provincial service. From there, the provincial government can ensure OSAP has sufficient resources to assist all students in need.

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