Affordability of Post-Secondary Education in Ontario


YanLing Chen
Executive Director
Federation of Canadian Secondary Students | Fédération des élèves du secondaire au Canada
+1 (647) 924-9869


Affordability of Post-Secondary Education in Ontario

TORONTO, ONTARIO, JANUARY 22, 2019 — Last week, the Ontario government announced a 10 percent reduction in tuition rates for students at publicly-funded colleges and universities in Ontario, effective September 1, 2019, as well as significant changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP).

The reduction in tuition rates will cost universities and colleges $440 million as the Ontario government has made no indication that they will be making an equivalent increase in public funding. By forcing universities and colleges to absorb these cuts, the quality of students’ education experiences is likely to be negatively affected. The fallout could include cancelled courses, larger class sizes, faculty layoffs, and a reduction in student services.

Ontario NDP Colleges and Universities Critic Chris Glover responded to the changes, saying that “in Ontario today, student debt levels are so crushing that people are putting off moving out of their parents’ home, and even putting off starting a family. Adding more interest and taking away grant money is going to make things even worse for people.” The Ontario Liberal Party is of a similar opinion. “Colleges and Universities will be forced to cut their programming and access to important student enrichment programs,” said Kathleen Wynne, Colleges and Universities Critic for the Ontario Liberal Party.

Students will be given a choice over whether they will pay student union fees charged to their account. Consequently, there will be a reduction in funding for programs deemed non-essential. These programs include campus clubs, advocacy and human rights services, student newspapers, and student governments. “The provincial government has effectively destroyed student representation at the college level and made post-secondary education less affordable by making student association fees optional and financial assistance less accessible,” said the College Student Alliance.

Universities, colleges, and their respective student unions will be independently tasked with determining which additional fees are to be considered essential. Reduced funding for student newspapers and student governments could result in decreased transparency and accountability from school administrators, weakened student voice, and reduced student activism on campus. Other programs that may be affected include access to transparent academic appeals, advocacy services, on-campus food banks and breakfast programs, student employment opportunities, and scholarships.

The significant changes to OSAP announced by the provincial government are worrisome. While affluent families benefit from a 10 percent tuition cut, those who need financial assistance will see their grants reduced or eliminated and the interest on their loans increased. The family income threshold has also been lowered to $140,000 from $175,000, which will reduce the number of students eligible for funding from OSAP.

This will result in fewer students being eligible for grants. 82% of grants will go towards students whose families earn $50,000 or less per year, up from 72%. Students eligible for OSAP but who do not fall into that category will receive the majority of their funding in the form of a Canada-Ontario Integrated Student Loan. Grants do not have to be repaid, whereas loans do.

Under the previous government, students had a six-month grace period after graduation during which their OSAP loans would not accrue interest. The current government has eliminated this grace period. While students will still have six months to start paying back their loans, interest will begin to accrue immediately. The increased loan-to-grant ratio and removal of the interest-free grace period will result in mounting debt for Ontario students.

These changes create barriers to attending post-secondary programs and were made without meaningful public consultation. Secondary and post-secondary students are the single most important stakeholders that deserve to be consulted when making these decisions, given that they are the ones most impacted. We have seen again and again that Ontario's Government for the People is not for the students. Instead, it is up to the students to advocate for ourselves. We urge those with concerns regarding these recent changes to post-secondary financing to reach out to their MPP, sign a petition, attend a peaceful rally, or get involved in order to make your voice heard.

To get started, consider adding your name to a petition against the Ontario government's recent changes, already signed by nearly 200,000 individuals.