Good afternoon PA Cho, Minister Yurek and Mr. Blodgett,
My name is Julia Pereira, President of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA). This afternoon, I will be speaking on behalf of the 150,000 undergraduate and professional students we represent across eight universities in Ontario. I will use these 3 minutes to share OUSA’s three recommendations to provide immediate relief for students and to highlight the challenges students are currently facing.
OUSA recommends the province:
- Enhance OSAP to ensure students are able to afford post-secondary education in Ontario
- Expand work-integrated learning opportunities like paid internships and co-ops to employ students and support businesses
- Increase mental health supports for students during this time of increased stress and uncertainty
This year, thousands of students in Ontario are attending university completely virtually. They are adapting to writing exams in their living rooms, struggling to access adequate broadband connections, and in some cases feeling unsafe in the place they call home - all of these are challenges students continue to face every single day.
However, above all of these concerns, the affordability of post-secondary education is the issue we hear about most often.
Early in this pandemic, students and recent graduates were provided with some financial relief through the Canada Emergency Student Benefit and the OSAP moratorium. However, as of October 1st, the OSAP moratorium has ended for recent graduates and students no longer have support through the CESB, leaving many primarily reliant on OSAP to afford university.
The provincial government has an opportunity to enhance OSAP to provide immediate financial assistance to students and recent graduates who need it most. OUSA recommends the province increase non-repayable OSAP grants, eliminate parental, spousal, and student expected contributions in the OSAP calculation, and extend the moratorium on OSAP payments and interest accrual until September 2022.
With COVID-19 continuing to spread, students are also faced with fewer part-time job opportunities to supplement their income. Campus restaurants and cafes are closed. Downtown establishments and retail stores have limited staff. Businesses that normally hire students for co-op positions or experiential learning opportunities have not been able to do so. Therefore, OUSA asks the provincial government to invest in employer incentivization programs, like the Career Ready Fund, to support and encourage businesses to employ students and recent graduates.
Finally, we know that students and graduates will be essential to Ontario’s long-term recovery, and so we need to invest in their success and their health and well being now. OUSA recommends that the province increase funding for campus-based mental health services and annualize the recent one-time investment of an additional $3.25M in student mental health.
Thank you for the opportunity to share the student perspective on the upcoming provincial budget and our ideas on how the province can better support students during this pandemic. We’re looking forward to continuing this conversation during OUSA’s Student Advocacy Conference running from November 16-19th.
Read the written submission below: