New OSAP for a new year

Photo by Liam David

College will be more affordable for a lot more people this September as the Ontario government rolls out a brand new OSAP system.

This new program has an increased focus on grants over loans. Students from families that earn less than $83,000 will likely receive grants more than their tuition costs, while students from families that make less than $50,000 will not have to repay those grants.

The new program is designed to increase the number of adults with post-secondary education from 66 per cent in 2014 to 70 per cent by 2020. The government’s 2017 budget projects that seven out of 10 new jobs in Canada will be in “high-skilled or management occupations,” the kinds of positions that require a post-secondary education.

In its budget the provincial government said even though numbers continue to rise, the government has room to improve. “Ontario’s workforce continues to be among the most skilled in the world and well equipped to adjust to a changing labour market,” it said.

Mature students will be most affected by the changes. A mature student is generally defined as someone over 19, who has been out of school for at least one year. They are evaluated differently than students straight out of high school. Mature students may not even need their high school diploma to apply.

Julia Lanre, a 32-year-old mother of one, credits the new OSAP for her decision to return. “It’s hard enough to work full-time and go to school and achieve those marks,” she said, “With these funds available, I’m going to put my self in a position where I can at least apply.”

Under the new program, Lanre will receive $23,000. Almost $16,000 of which will be in grants.

However, Lanre only found out about the changes from a friend.

“I haven’t seen any commercials or anything. They only way I would have known about it would be to go on their site.”

Premier Kathleen Wynne and several MPPs have tweeted about the program since the start of the year and a government official says there are OSAP ads in subways, cinemas and on television.

Despite the roll out, the government expects 150,000 students to benefit from this plan. However, this does not represent an increase in investment. Last year, as in many recent years, the Ontario government spent roughly $1.3 billion through OSAP. Meanwhile, Ontario’s tuition costs are the highest in Canada.

Statistics Canada found that Ontarians spend $2,000 more than the national average on tuition. Average tuition costs have increased by $3,000 in the past 11 years. Since 2013, the Ontario government has capped tuition increases at three per cent, but the cap expires at the same time the new OSAP debuts.

The lack of a funding increase worries Oshawa MPP, and NDP Youth Engagement critic, Jennifer French.

“A lot of future students are seeing it as ‘Oh good. My tuition is covered’, but there’s no new investment in education,” she says, “So, they’re trying to figure out what does free look like. Colleges are worried too. It costs money to provide a quality education.”

French says Ontario’s priority should be in reducing the debt burden. “College kids are coming out with debt loads that are, essentially, a mortgage.”

The new OSAP will be expanded even further in the following year. The 2018-19 school year will reduce the influence of spousal and parental support. In that year, even if the student still lives at home, the family will need to provide less funding.

Despite these changes, the government still expects students to contribute $3,000 a year. This number was arrived at by calculating how much one can make during the summer. The student must work at minimum wage for 17 hours a week for 16 weeks to save that amount. This contribution will not change.

The province has designed a calculator to determine eligibility. It measures income, marital status, residence, school choice, and the number of children. It can be found at While students can register an OSAP account, applications are not being accepted yet.