By Theodora Gribilas
Students from various schools across Ontario joined Chris Glover, MPP for Spadina—Fort York riding and Ontario NDP Critic for Colleges and Universities for a press conference to share the effect that Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) cuts have had to their school and personal lives.
“I’m ashamed of what governments have been doing for the last 25 years … attacking students and their ability to study,” said Glover.
The press conference, held at Queen’s Park on Monday, heard the voices of three students who spoke about their own financial burdens amid the changes to OSAP that were implemented this year.
Mohamad Abdulhadi, a fourth-year accounting, audit and information technology student at Conestoga College, said that he is expecting to receive approximately $4,000 less than he received last year.
Abdulhadi’s program requires him to pay his tuition in full in order to receive his schedule and be officially enrolled in his classes. In an attempt to do so, he maxed both of his credit cards.
“This is not the way I hoped my last year of college would be,” said Abdulhadi.
“I wanted to focus on my future, prepping myself for the CPA and building a career, but now my only focus is just to try and not drop out.”
In January 2019, the provincial government announced substantial changes to OSAP, a program intended to aid students financially in their pursuit of post-secondary education.
The government overhauled the program in response to the Auditor General’s March 2018 Provincial Budget forecast, which found that the program would cost the province $2 billion by 2020-21.
Cuts included the elimination of free tuition for low-income students and of the six-month interest-free grace period for graduating students.
Similar to Abdulhadi, Hannah Perka, a second-year American Sign Language English interpretation student at George Brown College, said at the conference that she received nearly 40 per cent less in funding compared to last year.
“I need OSAP to survive,” said Perka. “For the future of students and education, we need better OSAP. These cuts have done no good for anyone.”
Humera Dasu, the third student speaker at the conference, is a second-year business student at York University. She said she expected to receive a $1,460 grant for a course she was pursuing, but the grant never came.
“The overly rigorous and bureaucratic structure of OSAP this year is only hurting students like myself,” said Dasu. “We do not appreciate that the government in Ontario prioritizes things like buck-a-beer or fighting the carbon tax over affordable education.”
Dasu said her application was cancelled because OSAP had missed sending her an email due to a large number of applicants.
“To Doug Ford and the rest of his party, we the students of Ontario would like our rights to affordable education back,” she said.