Premier Kathleen Wynne hopes more low-income Ontario residents who have been away from school for a prolonged period will take advantage of new financial incentives to return to college or university.
During a whistle-stop tour at Durham College (DC) and University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Feb. 6, Wynne continued to promote her government’s commitment to post-secondary education through the new Ontario Student Grant.
The grant, which is the newest version of the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), is effective Sept. 2017 and replaces a number of existing assistance programs available for students. Wynne hopes the new grant will encourage students from households earning less than $50,000 to apply to college or university. There is also a grant for students with annual household incomes between $50,000 and $80,000.
“We are a small jurisdiction, and if we are going to punch above our weight, which we do, we are going to have to ensure everybody is as educated as we can manage,” said Wynne.
The premier detailed the grant to a class of DC Early Childhood Education (ECE) students and stressed the new program will be available to all OSAP-eligible students regardless of their age or when they graduated from high school.
“This is for students, whether they’ve been out of school and come back, whether they’re in a graduate program, or they are adult students,” said Wynne. “It’s for all Ontario students.”
Under the current OSAP program, the best financial relief a student can get is 30 per cent off their tuition costs, provided they met certain requirements.
Wynne is hoping people who have been out of the education system for an even longer period will take advantage of the new program which kicks in in September.
One ECE student feels the changes are beneficial.
“I believe the new changes to OSAP and the free tuition grant is wonderful news,” said Amanda Stephens. “I feel so many people, like myself, have wanted to return to studies to better our future and now hearing about these changes I believe more will be able to so.”
Wynne also announced the introduction of 100,000 new child care spaces in the province over the next five years. She went on to applaud the work-path the students were striving for.
“The work you do is so important. You are working with little minds and bodies that are really dependent on you for so many hours in the day,” said Wynne.
Julia Disomma, a first-year ECE student, was encouraged by the premier’s announcement.
“Free tuition is more than just money; it allows me to engage fully in my learning. The thought of graduating debt-free is also a relief. I’m positive this will encourage people from lower income families to pursue post-secondary education,” she said.
Premier Wynne toured the college and university with stops in DC’s Bio-medical engineering technology lab, where students maintain, design and repair medical equipment, and UOIT’s gaming lab.
“I’ve been really interested to see Durham College’s unique blend of practical and theoretical. In both cases, there’s innovation going on and that’s what we want, to continue to innovate,” said Wynne.
“These young people are really learning skills and at the same time they are thinking about what the next steps, the next technology and the next practice is going to be and that’s exactly what we need.”