By Emerald Bensadoun
Thousands of Ryerson students rang in the new year without OSAP and for some, that meant worrying about paying for rent and groceries.
The Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) is the main source of financial aid for post-secondary education in Toronto. Once a student’s enrolment is confirmed, the federal government provides financial assistance in the form of loans and grants.
Ryerson’s Student Financial Assistance Office (SFAO) said that before the winter break, it confirmed 19,917 of 23,672 applicants were enrolled at Ryerson by checking OSAP data against RAMSS enrolment figures.
On Dec. 27, the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development started to release OSAP funding.
Some unconfirmed students require manual processing; this includes students who haven’t confirmed their addresses with Ryerson and international exchange students, who have unique semester start and end dates which advisors update individually.
Other unconfirmed files included students with incomplete OSAP applications, income restrictions, academic progress restrictions, and those not yet enrolled in winter courses.
Ammar Karam, a Ryerson student who switched to journalism this year, had just enough money saved to pay his rent, tuition and housing bills off by Ryerson’s Jan. 12 tuition deadline.
He began budgeting to determine whether he could survive off ramen noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner until his OSAP funding was released.
In addition to paying tuition, “I rely on [OSAP] for 70-80 per cent of my living expenses,” said Karam, who is unemployed.
By Jan. 12, Ryerson had re- leased $208,634,740 of the total $235,133,294 funding assessed for OSAP loans.
According to the SFAO, now that school is back in session, the office will be regularly running the confirmation of enrolment processes. Students, the statement read, can expect their enrolment to be confirmed within days of enrolling in a full-time course load.
Second-year journalism student Tiffany Mboyo also uses OSAP for more than paying tuition. Mboyo said that last semester, a decision to live off campus led to her housing situation being processed incorrectly. She was unable to receive full OSAP funding.
Mboyo commutes from her home in East York during the school year. In the summer, she called and emailed the SFAO about her change in accommodations. Despite that, Mboyo said she had to high tail it from her family home in Guelph, Ont. to Ryerson’s campus to submit several pieces of identification and proof of living at the ServiceHub.
Even then, her OSAP funds were released a month late, she said.
A full month late on her rent and unable to purchase groceries or a Metropass, Mboyo said she considers herself “very lucky” to have had a landlord who empathized with her financial situation.
To avoid a repeat of last semester this time around, Mboyo said she went to the financial aid office to manually enter her information.
OSAP students have until the beginning of February before late fees are charged to their student accounts.