By Halla Imam
Ontario students face the highest tuition costs in the country, with thousands of recipients relying on gov- ernment loans to cover the cost of their post-secondary education, but the future of the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) funding is still uncertain.
Earlier this year, Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak sug- gested that student loans should be tied to grade averages and should direct students towards trade-based programs that offer more-certain employment. Hudak also suggested that OSAP funding should be limited to programs that saw higher employment rates immediately after graduation, claiming that too many students were graduating with degrees that lead them “back on mom and dad’s couch with no job to go to.”
Some students believe this would affect overall student enrollment and would make students who need the money forfeit the programs they really want to take.
“If the government chooses to give more money to certain programs, students who need OSAP could be forced to go into programs they have no interest in,” said fourth-year nursing student, Jessica Pope. “The government is basically changing the education system to suit their needs, instead of giving students the chance to study what they want,” said Pope.
Hudak was slammed by critics for trying to mould post-secondary institutions, reducing the freedom of universities and colleges in Ontario.
I think it goes against a student’s right to an education Pope argued that changes to the OSAP framework could make students feel pressured to abandon their interests and move into programs that would get them funding.
“I think it goes against student’s right to an education,” said Pope. “Everyone should have the choice to pursue the education they want, and the government shouldn’t be discouraging students to reach their full potential.”
Ryerson University president Sheldon Levy has said that though he would never be asked for his opinion on the topic, he would not support the change.
“To subject a student to low OSAP because of GPA or opportunity…that is something you don’t say to a student,” said Levy.
Levy mentioned that some students may come from backgrounds that require them to work, instead of focus on their studies.
But, not everyone shares this sentiment.
“It [cracking down on funding] makes sense because we have all these students graduating and they are not getting jobs,” said fourth-year graphic communication and design student, Julia Van Norden.
Van Norden thinks students entering university should consider the uncertainty of the economy before choosing programs and taking out big loans.
“I don’t necessarily think it’s bad that the government wants to make sure it’s not wasting money on programs where people don’t get jobs.”
Post-secondary student employment rates in Ontario are currently the lowest in the country, according to a study conducted by Statistics Canada this past summer. The Labour Force survey showed that Ontario graduates with a bachelor’s degree had a six per cent unemployment rate, compared to nine other provinces average of 4.7 per cent.
A framework of the changes will be released in October.