OUSA Releases Affordability: 2020 Results from the Ontario Undergraduate Student Survey (OUSS, previously Ontario Post-Secondary Students Survey)



January 13, 2022


OUSA Publishes Results of the 2020 Ontario Undergraduate Student Survey with Student Data on Affordability of Post-Secondary Education


TORONTO, ON – The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) is excited to announce the release of the first of three reports sharing the results of its biennial Ontario Undergraduate Student Survey (OUSS), previously known as the Ontario Post-Secondary Student Survey. The OUSS received over 5,500 undergraduate and professional student responses across OUSA’s eight member schools. The reports cover the accessibility, affordability, and quality post-secondary education in Ontario and are based on the results of the 2020 OUSS. 


The first report, Affordability: Results from the 2020 Ontario Undergraduate Student Survey,  highlights the affordability of post-secondary education as a policy priority for students from OUSA’s member institutions. Administered following the 2019 changes to OSAP and under the COVID-19 pandemic, when student and household finances entered a state of precarity, the report discusses how students are funding their education, how concerned they are about having enough money to complete their education, and how burdensome they anticipate their post-graduation debt will be. 


Continuing with results from previous iterations of OUSA’s survey, affordability remains a pressing concern for students. Notable trends indicate that affordability is more worrisome for low-income, first-generation, racialized, and disabled students. A large majority of respondents anticipated their debt to be burdensome, even with the introduction of financial aid supports like the Canada Emergency Response and Student Benefits, which was noted to be insufficient for living expenses. Many international students also reported a significant level of difficulty in financing their education, validated by the unregulated nature and high cost of international fees, and made more problematic by a lack of targeted financial aid available to them. 


“This survey shows many students are struggling to afford post-secondary education in Ontario,” said Malika Dhanani, OUSA Research & Policy Analyst and author. “The pandemic has led to fewer opportunities for employment, and temporary modifications to student financial aid have done little to support students. Recent events have only exacerbated the difficulties that already exist for students, particularly those who are marginalized. Students need a stronger and more comprehensive financial aid framework.”


This report also provides information about student employment trends, including how often students worked during the summer, how often they worked while studying, and what effect working while studying had on their academic performance. Summer employment levels faced a sharp decrease compared to previous years, a concern given that many students work in order to pay for school.


The OUSS provides important insight into the concerns students have and are important to inform systemic change efforts. OUSA will continue to collect and use this data to inform our policy and advocacy efforts and we encourage all post-secondary stakeholders to look to the OUSS and other similar data to better understand student needs and concerns.


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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.


Irum Chorghay 
Operations & Communications Coordinator
Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance
[email protected]