Ontario students are pleased to see improvements to Student Financial Assistance needs assessments in the Ontario 2015 Provincial Budget. New improvements include the removal of in-study income exemptions, a simplified student contribution, the decoupling of grants and loans as well as a vehicle exemption. By addressing the assessment process, the budget makes the system more accessible, understandable and empowers students to support their education while in school. These changes will make it easier for students to continue to finance their education and can have the power to bring Ontario’s students above the low-income cutoff while providing them with the ability to save money for during and after school without penalty.
“After seeing the Federal Budget make key adjustments to in-study income for the Canada Student Loans Program, we are happy and relieved that the province is choosing mirror the decision to better assist students,” says Jen Carter, President of OUSA. “Penalizing students who choose to work in-study is counter-intuitive, and these changes allow students the autonomy to be more self-supporting. These changes will also have the effect of expanding work integrated learning opportunities to more students, helping Ontario’s university students to develop critical employment skills.”
Under the new budget, students who choose to work while in study will no longer have their income count against their allocated OSAP needs assessment. As well, students will be expected to contribute a fixed, reasonable amount each year towards their education. This is a level of predictability that students have never had, and with this improvement, students can be encouraged to accumulate their own personal savings while attaining a post-secondary education.
“Our most recent survey of undergraduate students indicated that eight percent of students take on credit card debt to finance their education, and even more students are obliged to take on high interest private loans to cover the costs of education,” says Carter. “The new changes to in-study income will have the ability to reduce these types of debt and ensure that young graduates are sooner able to meaningfully contribute to the economy.
Ontario students are also thankful that student loans and grants will be decoupled. There is a reoccurring theme of choice for students in these changes, and the separation of grants from loans is yet another choice students will be able to make. “Grants will now be more accessible to students in Ontario,” says Carter. “Traditionally debt averse populations will now be encouraged to apply for grants and will be free to choose not to accept student loans.”
“When it comes to improving student financial aid, increasing access and efficacy doesn’t necessarily mean more investment- sometimes, it’s just about smarter investment,” says Jen Carter. “When making our budget recommendations, we outlined ways in which the government could use existing resources allocated to post-secondary in ways that would provide greater assistance to students. We are thankful to see that our suggestions were taken into account in the creation of this budget. While the adjustments seen today are helpful, there remains larger structural changes that could build on these improvements. OUSA is looking forward to engaging further on this conversation and finding ways to improve structural challenges in the best interests of students and the province.”