November 5, 2020
OUSA responds to the 2020 Ontario Budget
TORONTO - Today, the Ontario government released the 2020 Ontario Budget – Ontario’s Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recover. The Budget includes several key items for post-secondary students, including increased student mental health services, the expansion and improvement of broadband, and support for microcredentials. While OUSA is pleased with these investments, we also want to emphasize that as COVID-19 continues to impact our province, post-secondary students are struggling and in need of additional investments in financial aid, work-integrated learning, and online learning.
“We are glad to see the provincial government’s response to some of the needs and challenges that students have faced throughout the pandemic,” said Malek Abou-Rabia VP Education at the Students’ General Association at Laurentian University and OUSA Steering Committee member. “In particular, the investments in broadband address the accessibility concerns that many rural and northern students are currently struggling with.”
The $19.25 million investment in mental health supports for post-secondary students, which includes $3.25 million in new funding, will help ensure that students have access to the mental health services they need. This funding will strengthen community partnerships and help students access more programs, community services, and mental health supports.
OUSA also welcomes the $680 million investment to expand and improve broadband and cellular access across the province. This funding will be integral to ensuring all students, particularly those in rural and northern communities, are able to access high-quality education as courses continue to be delivered predominately online.
The provincial government’s $59.5 million investment in microcredentials and increased OSAP eligibility to support access to microcredentials is a welcome addition to the province’s support and recovery efforts. These investments will allow graduates to reskill and upskill, making it easier for them to adapt to Ontario’s rapidly changing workforce.
“While today’s announcement is a step in the right direction, students remain concerned about the lack of investment in student financial aid, work-integrated learning, and online learning,” said Julia Pereira, OUSA President and Vice-President University Affairs at the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union. “Post-secondary students and graduates will play a key role in Ontario’s COVID-19 recovery efforts, and they need support in these areas in order to complete their education and transition into the workforce.”
The provincial government has an opportunity to make post-secondary education more affordable by enhancing OSAP. This includes increasing non-repayable OSAP grants and eliminating parental, spousal, and student expected contributions in OSAP calculations, which would provide immediate financial assistance to students who need it most. OUSA also recommends that the provincial government reimplement the moratorium on OSAP payments and interest accrual until September 2022, followed by the introduction of a permanent, two-year grace period after graduation to ensure recent graduates are in the financial position to cover loan and interest payments and contribute to Ontario’s recovery efforts.
The provincial government can further support students and prepare them for success in recovery efforts by funding incentivization programs to increase work-integrated learning opportunities, specifically by re-investing $68 million over three years in the Career Ready Fund. Work-integrated learning is linked to better labour market outcomes immediately after graduation, and current students are missing out on this valuable opportunity due to pandemic-related cancellations.
Finally, the current and sudden shift to online learning requires support from the provincial government to ensure that students continue to receive a secure, high-quality, affordable, and accessible education. OUSA believes that the provincial government can play a leadership role and better support students by working with stakeholders, providing guidance to address concerns raised by students, and increasing investments to support institutions to continue to provide high-quality learning in an online context.
OUSA will continue to advocate for increased government support in student financial aid, work-integrated learning, and online learning during our annual Student Advocacy Conference from November 16-19th, when students representatives will meet virtually with Members of Provincial Parliament.
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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.
Communications & Operations Coordinator
Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance