Students on hook for $700-million OSAP overpayment

Apr 1, 2016 | News

Jeremy Appel, Greg Chow and Dondre Stewart

The Ontario Student Assistant Program (OSAP) overpaid borrowers a total of $700 million, which is expected to be paid back in full, a Toronto Star investigation revealed Friday.

Humber Students’ Federation (HSF) President Ahmed Tahir┬ácalls this revelation “disturbing” but unsurprising.

“It reiterates that the grant system, or loan system, and the bureaucracy involved, has so many cracks in it that people fall through all the time,” Tahir told Humber News.

He said the grant system recently established by the Ontario government for low-income families is “a step in the right direction,” but still has many of the bureaucratic obstacles of OSAP.

“These issues are inherent to the system,” Tahir said, suggesting that this problem could be solved by making tuition free across the board.

“The thing that we know works and costs the least amount of money in terms of administration is up-front free tuition, where there isn’t a grant and it’s paid for like public school.”

Humber News also spoke with Holsee Sahid, manager of Financial Aid at Humber, who said the issue is that students weren’t disclosing to OSAP changes in their income that would’ve decreased the size of their loans.

Students can still take out a second loan if they didn’t pay back their first overpayment, but then they’re expected to pay back in full, she said, but the school does offer limited subsidies.

“If the student cannot afford to pay the second loan overpayment, there are other options. We can work with the student to help them a little bit to make that overpayment, so that they can get funding,” said Sahid.

There’s also what’s called a “hardship review,” which helps students in their final semester or year pay back their loans so they’re able to graduate. This does not apply to students who’ve transferred to Humber after multiple years at another postsecondary institution, she added.

Sahid’s major piece of advice to students is “if you’re working, let us know, come in (to the Registrar’s Office) and we’ll advise you what to do and report it on your OSAP application, so you won’t have any problems in the future.”

For more on this story, including interviews with students, tune in to Humber News TV‘s April 1, 2016, broadcast.