Galvin Zaldivar, Madison Raye, Druv Sareen and Paul Schubert
Humber business student Aliah Hyat isn’t sure how she’s going to be able to afford school after the Ontario government’s announced changes to OSAP.
“It is personally going to affect me in a negative way because my parents didn’t save … post-secondary tuition money for me. They did for my brother but not for me even though I may not fall in the low-income category,” the 18-year-old Business Administration freshman said.
“It’s really hard for me,” Hyat said.
She is among numerous Humber students left scrambling after massive changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program and tuition fees, announced by the provincial government last week. About 210,000 full-time university and college students could be affected in some way.
Among the changes proposed by the Doug Ford government is the elimination of free tuition, a tightening of OSAP eligiblity and a 10 per cent cut to tuition fees.
While students initially welcomed the 10 per cent cut, they were disappointed by the proposed change to OSAP.
The cut in tuition is accompanied by a complete overhaul of OSAP’s financial assistance model, including a shift from grants to loans. For many students this will leave them with a greater financial burden once they graduate.
Ivana Pelisek, a Paralegal Studies student, said the move is absolutely ridiculous.
“Definitely for the future generation wanting to go to college or … maybe change careers, I think it’s going to impact them in a huge way,” Pelisek said.
She said she believes the government’s priorities neglect future students.
Also on the cutting block is the six-month grace period before provincial loans begin to accrue interest.
“It’s just gonna be really hard for me not having the six months at least to be able to save back some money to pay off the loan because like if you’re coming straight out of college, it’s like there’s no savings,” Hyat said.
“It’s going to be a lot more stressful coming out of school as a new student and with no prior work experience to try and pay off … such a big loan without the grace period,” said Janet Henry, a Humber student.
Students are fighting back with petitions and protest have erupted across the province.
An emergency rally was held at Queen’s Park on Friday, with organizations such as Ontario Pubic Service Employees Union (OPSEU) and the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), voicing opposition to the cuts.
Nour Alideeb, chair of CFS Ontario, said she believes the cuts are hypocritical.
“[If] the government is supposed to be for the people the same way they claim,” Alideeb told Et Cetera. “I think it’s really unfortunate that they didn’t consult students when they were trying to make this decision.”
For colleges and universities, the tuition cuts will not be covered by the provincial government, leaving the schools to make up the difference.
Chris Whitaker, president of Humber College, says the administration estimates a revenue loss in the millions.
“If you take 10 percent cut in tuition fees, it’s probably in the neighborhood of $10 to $12 million that comes off of our bottom line,” Whitaker said.
Despite this, Whitaker is positive the cuts will not affect the quality of education at Humber.
“Our approach is to obviously protect program and service quality as much as possible,” he said. “Moving forward the college is looking at various options to do that.”
Many students voiced concerns about the impact of cuts on classroom sizes. In response, Whitaker said there are no plans to fire teachers.
“We’ll probably be staffing up this year because as we expand, as we bring on new programs, we need to add faculty not cut from our ranks,” he said.
Whitaker acknowledged the difficulties arising from the cuts and said he understands the concerns people have.
“They will just have to be more circumspect and prudent in terms of their own financial management and budget.” he said.