By Sarah Krichel
November is Adoption Awareness Month in Ontario, and the provincial government recently addressed funding post-secondary education by implementing a grant for those who are adopted or without legal guardian. But adopted students at Ryerson aren’t getting their hopes up.
Under the new grant, adopted youth will receive a monthly fund of $500 and First Nations families who adopt an Indigenous child will receive a one-time $5,000 fund.
But those eligible for the grant don’t think that it will work, due to past experiences.
RyePRIDE coordinator and second-year criminology student Camryn Harlick, who uses they/them/their pronouns, said that this pledge doesn’t come through with the grants that it promises. They said that they are $35,000 in debt, and that no “radical change” to make tuition accessible for students in their situation is being made.
“If you look at the old policy and the new policy, there are really only a couple things that are different, but it’s basically the same thing,” Harlick said. “So [I think] they’re just making it look new to seem more progressive … but I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Previously, the Living and Learning Grant (LLG) was offered to students between the ages of 21 to 24. The LLG will now apply to anyone adopted after Aug. 1, 2013, between the ages of 18 to 24, granting a maximum of $6,000 per year for post-secondary education.
Harlick said that people they know who are emancipated still haven’t received their grants either. “So I feel like it doesn’t work.”
According to Deb Matthews, minister of advanced education and skills development, OSAP reform is being prioritized to make sure finances don’t serve as a barrier be- tween students and education.
“We know that Crown wards and former Crown wards face particu- lar challenges when it comes to ac- cessing education. That’s why I am delighted that we are moving for- ward with this Living and Learning Grant,” Matthews said.
Harlick said that they experienced issues with OSAP previously, which is why they do not trust the prom- ises that the provincial government is making. They were told by one of Ontario’s children’s aid societies that they would receive full tuition, but they only received $3,000.
“Although that is great, that is not even half my tuition,” Harlick said. “I feel like any time they do anything that’s remotely good, they say it’s huge and that it’s this impossible advance that they’re so happy to make—when it’s not huge. It’s the same policy you already had, you’re just rebranding it.”
Rajean Hoilett, chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students—Ontario (CFS-O), said that a better support system is lacking.
“I am a little bit disappointed that we’re not having the real conversations about the root causes of a lot of these issues,” Hoilett said. “We haven’t heard any constructive conversations about where we can go to ensure that everyone has access to post-secondary education.”
The CFS is a federal student lobbying group that has advocated for free education and elimination of student debt for all students, including part-time and international students. The CFS has a Fight the Fees campaign, which recently held a National Day of Action on Nov. 2. According to Matthews, the ministry is currently working on OSAP transparency and accessibil- ity, by focusing on things such as a mobile app on which you can apply for and use to estimate how much OSAP will grant to you, as well as ridding students of the tedious processes when applying for OSAP loans and grants.
Harlick is also an Indigenous student, and said they didn’t receive the grant for that “special consideration” either. “They make it seem like we are receiving all this help when we’re really not,” they said.
“If tuition was going to be accessible, it would be free. You’re not doing anything revolutionary really. You’re doing the bare minimum.”