OSAP confusion leaves high-school students unsure about postsecondary

Published On April 5, 2019 | By denissa palmer | Politics, Tuition

Student holding “Ontario Student Abandonment Program” poster Downtown, Toronto.

Denissa Palmer

‘My dreams have to wait’

Inspired by directors like Jordan Peele and Spike Lee, 18-year-old- Tisania Smith has always dreamt of being behind the camera, directing and producing.  But she had a bad wake-up call this school term when she realized she couldn’t accept any of three offers from York, Waterloo, and OCAD University.

18-year-old Tisania Smith has been forced to put her education on hold without the help of OSAP loans. (Denissa Palmer)

Ontario high-school students like Smith have less than a month before the May 1 deadline to accept any offers of admission. But many are stuck on what their next step will be without the reassurance and security of an OSAP student loan, which the provincial government has thrown into doubt.

“They’ve made me really hesitant in my decision-making process. However, I refuse to allow a male like (Premier) Doug Ford to decide my future. Whatever I have to do, I will do it,” Smith said.

On Thursday, students all through the GTA yelled and chanted to protest education budget cuts and the changes that Ford’s administration is saying it will make to OSAP loans. No OSAP loan applications are currently available for the 2019-20 school year while the government determines a new formula for funding.

The provincial government has indicated that the previous Liberal government template for grants and loans based on household income will be scrapped.

Smith knows she is among many students and other Ontario citizens upset about this snowballing issue.

“I hear complaints almost on a daily basis. Everyone is talking about them, students, teachers, parents, families. Some agree, and some disagree, but everyone is talking about it,” said Smith.

Although Smith has maintained a part-time job since she was 15, she still feels forced to work more hours and rush in order to handle her school finances without any government loans.

Smith has always used her artistic and athletic activities as therapy throughout school and said the younger generation will lose out by forcing them to focus solely on math and numbers, with Ontario declaring a new, more rigorous emphasis on the subject. Many observers have expressed concerns that the changes will come at the expense of arts and sports programs in the high schools.

“I think it’s incredibly sad to see and will result in a very changed and closed-minded generation. Arts and sports are my escape. I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have those outlets and opportunities in my back pocket these past four years,” she said.

Blast from the past

In 2016, funding relief seemed to be at hand for post-secondary education as then-premier Kathleen Wynne made changes to the student aid program which were actually rolled out as no-tuition opportunities for low-income families.

Prior to those changes, students had to wait four months before applying for student aid because they were unsure about the total costs of their tuition.

In January, the Progressive Conservative Party made numerous changes to the program, eliminating the “free-tuition” for low-income families along with the six-month grace period to start paying back student loans.

Since these announcements, outraged students have marched on the roads of local schools to protest.

Peel District School Board sent out a newsletter to all elementary and high-schools informing them of their stance on the protest.

The Peel District School Board sent out a newsletter to parents of students informing them of their stance on the protests.

“If your teen is planning to participate in the walkout, please talk with them about why they want to participate. Share your perspective on the issue and how you would like to see things resolved. If your teen chooses to walk out, please ask them to make safe choices and to be respectful in their participation,” it stated.

The board said officials will attempt to supervise, but won’t accompany any students on school property.

On Saturday, a rally of up to 15,000 teachers from across the province is expected at Queen’s Park to protest proposed changes in education including an increase in class size.

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