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COVID-19 has made paying off student loans even harder than usual, and that’s why OUSA recently sent letters to the provincial and federal governments asking them to provide support to post-secondary graduates as they navigate the repayment process. Shortly after, both governments announced a six-month moratorium (or “freeze”) on Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) payments and interest accrual until September 30, 2020.
Below, I’ll explain what this means and answer a few of the questions we’ve heard from students, including how the moratorium is different from the usual OSAP grace period, how it affects students graduating this year, and, in general, what improvements OUSA wants to see to the current grace period structure.
*Photo by Mike Graeme
My name is Mathew Dueck, and I am the Associate Vice-President, Distance and Part-Time for the Students’ General Association (SGA) at Laurentian University and a fourth year-Indigenous Social Work student. I am of the Buffalo Clan, and my Spirit Name is Gimewan Niimi, meaning “Rain Dancer.” I firmly believe that Indigenous voices must be amplified and celebrated, and what is written here is a brief introduction to concepts such as colonization and oppression, truth and reconciliation. First, though, it is important for me to share that, being of mixed ancestry and raised in a white home, I am conscious of colonial violence from the perspective of those who have promoted it in its many forms, as well as those who have suffered
I’m going to be honest - writing this presidential update was difficult. At the time of my last update, OUSA was gearing up for one of our most productive months of the year with our In It Together Reception at Queen’s Park, our Spring General Assembly, the release of the Ontario Budget, and our Partners in Higher Education Dinner. In the post-secondary sector, students were beginning to study for finals, confirm their summer plans, begin to consider their next steps after completing their post-secondary journey, and say their goodbyes as the spring academic year came to a close. Within the span of a couple of days, global society recognized the magnitude of our pandemic - and what immediate measures were necessary to ensure that we can help our communities stay healthy, and to help support our healthcare system.
In his innovative book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Friere defines education as an intimate relationship between student, teacher, and society. Learning revolves around discourse - a student is not just “taught”, they are a co-creator of knowledge. For Friere, the essence of education is to empower students with the ability to apply different perspectives and lenses to a subject or issue. This encourages them to break away from individualistic thinking and adopt a holistic approach that fosters critical consciousness.
Mental health is one of the most pressing issues on university campuses across Ontario, with more students experiencing depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts every year.
Being a student is a stressful balancing act. They’re under pressure to achieve high grades, join clubs, and decide what to do after graduation, choosing between a crowded job market and competitive graduate or professional degree programs. Many are living on their own for the first time and learning to manage their finances. Others are raising a family or looking after ongoing health concerns. University is expensive, too; almost forty percent of students work during the school year to make ends meet, often at the expense of their studies. In a recent OUSA survey, more than half of students said working while studying hurt their academic performance.
In my dream world, every classroom would be covered in rainbows and trans flags, filled with trans and queer students like myself and, frankly, taught by queer and trans professors. However, I live in reality, and, for me, reality often means being the only trans person in a room – and the classroom is no different.
Now that January – the Monday of the months – is over, I’m excited to share some OUSA updates with everyone.
First, I want to congratulate students and student associations across the province for engaging in the democratic process and participating in their local student government elections. Electing strong student representatives is vital to ensuring that the student voice is not lost.
A Primer on Experiential Education in Ontario
Today, higher education learning extends well beyond the traditional classroom to involve anything from visiting the office of a local Member of Parliament to walking through a city park or the assembly plant of a major car manufacturer! Motivated by innovation in pedagogy and a call to prepare students for the new world of work, post-secondary institutions have welcomed experiential learning across all disciplines.
Hello and Happy New Year!
This Presidential Update marks the conclusion of OUSA’s first month in the new decade. As we look forward to a new decade of advocacy in the post-secondary education sector, OUSA’s Steering Committee and I have reflected on how we can continue to push student priorities in innovative ways and partner with our stakeholders across the province to raise student voices. Some of the work we are excited about this month include our budget submission to the provincial government, our submission to the government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, and our joint student mental report: In It Together.
OUSA’s Steering Committee members are some of the most passionate and knowledgeable student advocates in the province. This interview series is an opportunity to share some of their experiences and knowledge with a wider audience of future (and current) student advocates.
Matthew Gerrits, OUSA’s VP Finance and the VP Education at the Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association, is serving his second term on OUSA’s Steering Committee and can tell you more about the history of student associations in Ontario than you’d think one person can know. Here is his student advocacy story: