The Council of Ontario Universities (COU) commends a provincial budget measure introduced today to Ontario’s generous student assistance program. These changes will result in easier access to aid, more grants for the students who need it most, and more assistance in both grants and loans to students from middle-income families – positive changes that will improve access to higher education and make the real costs of tuition better understood by students and their families.
The changes will also mean that in time, students will receive assistance at registration instead of having to pay full tuition up-front and wait to be reimbursed. To achieve this, the government intends to restructure the Ontario Student Assistance Plan (OSAP), set new requirements for tuition administration at universities and colleges, and amend its transfer payment system. Implementation of the Ontario Student Grant will begin in the 2017-18 calendar year and full implementation of the tuition billing reforms will take place in 2018-19.
“The tuition sticker price is not the real measure of the cost of university tuition. Ontario has one of the most generous student aid programs in Canada, and when you consider the net costs of tuition – which is the actual price students pay once financial aid is factored in, most students will pay much less,” says David Lindsay, COU’s President and CEO.
University students currently receive almost $2 billion in financial aid through OSAP. A major part of this assistance is to meet tuition costs.
“This new system will provide a more accurate reflection of the actual lower cost of tuition in Ontario and encourage greater participation in postsecondary education” says Lindsay.
“Students and parents have numerous and generous grants, savings incentives, bursaries, scholarships and tax credits available, to help qualified students, no matter what their financial situation, attend university. This change makes those options more transparent.”
The government also announced that Ontario’s tax credits now available to postsecondary students will be converted into grants for students as part of the new student assistance system. In addition to assistance provided by the government through OSAP, students also receive millions of dollars in financial support from universities. In 2014-15, universities provided $887 million in non-repayable bursaries and scholarships. This included more than $160 million in financial aid to students whose needs were not fully met by OSAP.
Last year alone, 44 per cent of university students in Ontario graduated entirely without debt and the average debt among all students at graduation was $15,000 – that’s less than the Canadian average, and third lowest among all provinces.
Ontario universities are committed to working closely with the province to put the new financial aid measures for students in place, and to help identify and overcome obstacles to access for lower-income students.
COU is the voice of Ontario’s universities, promoting the value of education, research and innovation that leads to social, cultural and economic success.
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