April 11, 2019
TORONTO, ON - Today, the Ontario government announced the 2019 provincial budget. This marks the first budget for the government elected in June 2018. Key items affecting university students include: changes to strategic mandate agreements, increases in mental health supports, tuition reductions, cuts to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), introduction of the Student Choice Initiative (SCI), investment in broadband connectivity, maximizing commercialization opportunities in the post-secondary education sector, introduction of the Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses (CARE) tax credit, and review of employment and skills training programs.
Students are disappointed to see the government not address their concerns about the negative impacts that the SCI and changes to OSAP will have on students and the services they utilize. Student services are already seeing the impacts of SCI as they prepare for the upcoming year(s), and students are still unaware of the amount of financial aid they will receive for the 2019-20 school year. Ontario’s tuition fees also remain the highest in the country, and OUSA is dedicated to increasing the affordability of post-secondary education throughout the province.
“This budget leaves students with a number of unanswered questions when it comes to post-secondary education,” said Danny Chang, OUSA President and student at Western University. “We look forward to discussing student concerns with the Ministry to address questions about the implementation of the 2019 OSAP changes that have left students worried about how they will finance their education in the fall.” See the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance’s (OUSA) public list of questions to the Ministry on Tuition, Ancillary Fees, and OSAP here.
This budget does, however, include a number of items that benefit students. The provincial government announced the CARE tax credit, which allows up to 75% of eligible childcare expenses to be covered by a tax credit. This change supports post-secondary students who have children and face education barriers due to inaccessible childcare.
The provincial government’s $174 million investment in mental health is also important to students, and we hope to see this investment targeted at mental health supports for post-secondary students. Students hope the government will include them in consultations to determine the allocation of this increase in mental health supports. As a unique population, students require adequate and accessible mental health supports that are based on a whole-of-community approach.
The provincial government also announced an investment of $315 million over the next five years to support broadband and cellular connectivity infrastructure.
“We are glad to see the government make a significant investment in increasing broadband connectivity across the province,” said Julia Göllner, VP Administration & Human Resources of OUSA and student at Queen’s University. “As technology-enabled education continues to expand and improve across Ontario, it’s important to recognize the barriers that rural and northern students face in accessing this form of high-quality and affordable education.”
OUSA hopes the provincial government will work with students on issues affecting post-secondary education, including improving training and employment programs, commercializing the post-secondary education sector, and increasing mental health supports on campuses.
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OUSA represents the interests of 150,000 professional and undergraduate, full-time and part-time university students at eight student associations across Ontario. Our vision is for an accessible, affordable, accountable, and high quality post-secondary education in Ontario.
Operations & Communications Director
Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance