Jared Dodds, News Reporter
Michael Wilson, a second-year Game Programming student, had one thought when he heard about the changes coming to the Ontario Student Assistance Program.
“I was freaking pissed,” he said
It was apparently also the reaction of many post-secondary students when the Conservative government of Premier Doug Ford announced the sweeping shifts to OSAP in January.
“It was basically the government saying screw off to low-income families,” Wilson said. “The way that he [Doug Ford] goes on about money for education really baffles my mind.”
The new policy eliminated the tuition grant for low-income families and changed the way most of the money is given to students from grants to loans.
This means that more students will leave college and university with more debt, a fact that is not lost on Wilson.
“I’m probably going to end up in debt, because I can’t pay the money back,” he said.
Wilson said wondering how he was going to pay back his debt after finishing school was one of the biggest sources of stress for him.
While some students are thinking about the future, others are concerned with simply getting through day to day without the support from the grants.
Matthew Wood, a second-year Culinary Management student, said his first thought when he heard about the changes was that he wouldn’t be able to pay his transit fees.
“At the start of last semester, OSAP was a great base for me to pay for my Presto [Card] and my food,” Wood said.
“I considered taking another gap year just to make more money so I would actually have enough to pay for everything,” he said.
Fear of being in debt after graduation was heightened by the elimination of the grace period, which gave students six months before their loans started collecting interest.
Wilson said he had to enter this year knowing that his debt would start collecting the moment he graduated because he couldn’t get a job right away.
The elimination of the grace period is one of the biggest concerns for Chris Glover, the NDP Universities’ critic. “It means the government is going to be taking more money from these students and that’s what’s really wrong,” he said. Glover, who represents Spadina-Fort York, has major concerns after hearing students talk about how these changes affect them.
“From the students in the riding and students across the province … just devastation and shock,” he said.
“There was one student, for example, a PhD student, when she did the calculation in March, she was told she was going to be getting $20,000,” Glover said. “When she actually got her final letter, she was getting nothing.”
Meanwhile, HumberNews reported enrollment at Humber College appears to be up this semester despite the murkiness of OSAP’s future.
Glover took it a step further, saying the NDP’s plan was to transform all loans into grants and forgive interest on student debt.
He said it’s important students realize they are members of a democracy who have influence if they raise their voices.
“It’s important that everybody stand up,” he said.