March 25, 2020
Toronto, ON - Today, the Honorable Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance, presented Ontario’s COVID-19 Action Plan and an Economic and Fiscal Update. The update includes important investments to support those most impacted by COVID-19 and addresses some of the financial challenges faced by post-secondary students and graduates navigating the current landscape in Ontario.
OUSA is thankful that the Action Plan includes the implementation of a six-month, interest-free moratorium on the provincial portion of Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loan payments in light of COVID-19. This will help ensure that graduates entering an uncertain economic period have the time and support they need to find high-quality employment before they have to repay their loans.
Last week OUSA released a letter calling on the provincial government to implement a moratorium on OSAP payments to address the challenges Ontario post-secondary graduates will face as a result of the income barriers that COVID-19 presents. We also asked the government to implement an immediate two-year, interest-free grace period for all students graduating in 2020. While we will continue to advocate for this grace period, the moratorium is a good first step towards alleviating some of the difficulties graduates will experience when repaying their OSAP loans.
“Thank you to Minister Romano for advocating for this necessary step to support graduates during this challenging time,” said Catherine Dunne, President of OUSA and Vice-President for the University Students’ Council at Western University. “This student debt relief measure will help alleviate some financial insecurity graduates are facing, and will help ensure Ontarians can prioritize the health of themselves and others.”
OUSA understands that we are in unprecedented times. The government’s response is rightfully focused on supporting our health care system and helping those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to emphasize that many students in Ontario are vulnerable and require assistance. This measure to suspend OSAP loan payments is an important step towards supporting students during this time. We are also hopeful that some of the $1.0 billion COVID-19 contingency fund will be invested in mental health supports, recognizing the unique impact that social distancing and isolation may have on students’ mental health.
OUSA is also pleased the Economic and Fiscal Update includes a commitment to expand the Women’s Campus Safety Grant as outlined in our pre-budget submission. This is invaluable funding to help post-secondary institutions prevent gender-based violence and support survivors.
“This funding is needed more than ever,” acknowledged Dunne. “Experts have identified that gender-based violence increases during and following crises, and we commend the government for recognizing this as a priority.”
Going forward, OUSA will continue to advocate for immediate changes that will support students through these challenging times, such as changing the OSAP eligibility to recognize lost summer income due to COVID-19 and providing incentives to support new graduates as they enter the workforce. Additionally, we will continue to advocate for OUSA’s priorities as outlined in our Pre-Budget Submission to the Minister of Finance. This government submission highlighted student priorities and focused on asking the government to restore OSAP, support student mental health, work to eliminate sexual violence on campus, and better prepare students for the workforce. Our full recommendations can be found here.
We are hopeful that when the Minister of Finance introduces a full Ontario Budget 2020, it will include additional investments into post-secondary education to support students.
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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