Today’s release of the 2016 Ontario budget announced enormous changes to financial assistance that will make university education more accessible and affordable, according to the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA). The newly announced Ontario Student Grant (OSG) builds on existing programs to increase the amount of grant money available to students, and according to OUSA, focuses on helping students with the most financial need.
“These are sweeping improvements that will dramatically improve financial aid for our students,” says Spencer Nestico-Semianiw, President of OUSA and VP (Education) at the McMaster Students Union. “Students will receive more grants, and for many of them, tuition will be free.”
The budget addresses many issues that OUSA has raised during recent years. One particularly significant change is the removal of tuition and education tax credits, which the organization has long recommended in research documents and budget submissions. “Tax credits did not provide assistance when students needed it, and they diverted aid money to those who did not need the help,” said Nestico-Semianiw. “For years, OUSA has led the push for tax credit funds to be repurposed into effective, up-front aid, and now that’s exactly what we’ll be seeing.”
Other changes that OUSA believes will benefit all students include lowering the amount of money that OSAP expects parents and spouses to contribute, and expanding access to grant programs to all students regardless of when they graduated from high school.
OUSA also appreciates the simplicity of the new grant programs. The organization argued that the previous system, which offered several grants at different times, was overcomplicated and could discourage prospective students from accessing education. Under the government’s new program all portions of aid will be rolled together and offered up-front. “University education is now more affordable, and more students will know it,” said Nestico-Semianiw.
OUSA believes these changes will be beneficial across the board, and applauds the government for being highly receptive to students’ input. “We’re extremely proud of the advocacy we’ve done and our ability to work with the government to enact these major improvements for students,” added Nestico-Semianiw.
OUSA’s pre-budget submission Educated Investments: Providing Effective Systems and Enriching Experiences can be found here.