By Carly Yoshida-Butryn
Jenny Gregory couldn’t afford to pay her tuition after a bureaucratic change shut her out of a bursary.
The requirements for her Ryerson tuition bursary, which she had received the past three years, changed with the recent introduction of Student Access Guarantees (SAGs), causing the fourth-year nursing student to take out a $5,000 line of credit from the bank.
“It’s more money than I would have gotten from the bursary, but I wouldn’t have had to pay that back,” she said. “I’ve had to work twice as much as I did before.”
After the tuition freeze ended in 2006, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) introduced SAGs, which are meant to ensure that no Ontario student should be prevented from attending Ontario’s public colleges and universities because of a lack of financial support.
But Ryerson Students’ Union President Nora Loreto said no additional money was given to schools to fund the SAGs, and as a result, Ryerson has been dipping into existing funds that used to finance bursaries.
“Colleges and universities were left to figure it all out for themselves,” she said. “There’s less money in bursaries because they have to pay for SAGs.”
Qualifications for receiving SAGs include being an Ontario undergraduate or graduate student who has applied and been assessed for OSAP funding.
However, Zouheir Fawaz, vice provost students, said that students aren’t getting shortchanged by the SAGs. Fawaz explained that the school allocated more money to other bursaries so that students who aren’t eligible for SAGs can still apply for the same amount of money.
“It did not have an impact on the ability of the students who would have qualified in the past for it,” he said. But this doesn’t help Gregory.
“I applied for OSAP but I didn’t qualify because my parents make too much money,” she said. “But there’s no place on the OSAP form that says my parents don’t support me.
“I’m extremely frustrated and angry because I do need the financial assistance and I used to be able to get it.” Because she didn’t receive the bursary this year, she’s had to rack up a tab with her parents and owed them $1,000 by winter break.
“Money would have made things a lot easier because I wouldn’t have had to work and I could have concentrated more on school,” she said. “That was the only thing I could get from the school and now that I have to go through OSAP, I can’t get it.”
Second-year journalism student Caitlin Smith is in the same boat.
“The only extra money besides OSAP that I could get was the SAG and I wasn’t eligible because OSAP covered my tuition,” said Smith, who can’t pay for her books this semester until her Used Bookroom cheque comes in.
“Now that I’m living downtown, I’ve got a lot more stuff to pay for. It’s a week-to-week basis.”