On Thursday, January 17th, 2019, the provincial government announced proposed changes to Ontario’s tuition framework for universities, as well as changes to the student financial aid model. Below is a comprehensive overview of the proposed changes, using all the information presently available.

The Announcement:

The proposed changes include:

  • Tuition decreased by 10% for the in 2019-2020 academic, followed by a tuition freeze in 2020-2021.
  • Non-essential and non-tuition fees must have an online opt-out option available.
  • Starting in the 2019-2020 academic year, the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) will be reworked.

These proposed changes must go through the Ontario legislature in order to take effect. As of right now this has not happened, and there is no knowledge of when this will take place at Queen’s Park. If a piece of legislation that includes these changes is passed, it will likely take effect during the 2019-2020 academic year. As such, your tuition, student fees, and OSAP, for the current 2018-2019 academic year will not be affected.

Possible changes to tuition include:

A 10% decrease in tuition fees paid by students for the 2019-2020 academic year, which will result in approximately a $660 decrease for students in an undergraduate arts and science degree. This will be followed by a tuition freeze for the 2020-2021 academic year, which will restrict universities from increasing tuition fees.

While a decrease in the cost of tuition is beneficial, there is concern about the implications of this proposed change. There is uncertainty surrounding the future funding of university services and resources, as well as the quality of education, due to a cut in university funding.

Possible changes to non-essential non-tuition fees collection include:

Institutions would be required to provide an online opt-out option for all non-essential non-tuition fees. The government has provided some guidance on what an ‘essential’ service or program is and would therefore continue to receive a mandatory fee.  These include fees used to fund major, campus-wide services and facilities or fees which contribute to the health and safety of students. According to the provincial government, essential campus initiatives include: walksafe programs, health and counselling, athletics and recreation and academic support.

There are more questions than answers from this statement and the AMS is working hard with various partners and stakeholders to receive more information. The Alma Mater Society and the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance are concerned about the impact that this will have on its ability to provide critical services to students.

Possible changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) include:

Eligibility

  • Grants will continue to be provided to those with the greatest financial need.
  • Elimination of the non-needs-based portion of the Ontario Student Grant.
  • Share of funds going to low incoming families to increase by 3%.
  • 82% of grants will be provided to students from households with a low family income of less than $50,000, up from 76%.
  • Reduction of the family income threshold associated with eligibility for OSAP, provide some provincial loans to low-income students and increase the per-term cap for the Ontario Student Loan.

Those who were receiving loans and were capable of paying them back, were classified as falling into the non needs-based funding category. These individuals will no longer be eligible for grants. There will be an increase in the percentage of funds and grants going to low-income families, which will in turn lower the amount of funding going towards middle-income families. The government has also proposed an increase in the per-term cap for loans, meaning students are able to take out more loans now that they are receiving fewer grants. So middle-income students will receive more loans and fewer grants. Low-income students will continue to receive grants and will also be supplemented with some provincial loans. The above conditions will be determined by the OSAP calculator and are subject to each individual student’s circumstances.

Funding Received

  • Computer allowance adjusted to reflect a one-time purchase (as opposed to being renewed on a yearly basis).
  • Independent student status to be granted after 6 years out of high school, instead of 4, with parental income factored into the OSAP needs assessment for students up to 6 years out of high school.
  • Calculations for how much a student is eligible for are to be based on a contribution from students that reflects the recent increase to minimum wage increases, and to restore parental contributions to 2017-2018 amounts.
  • The grant-to-loan ratio changed to a minimum of 50% for second-entry programs (i.e. graduate degrees, graduate professional programs.)

With these changes, the amount of funding a student will receive is now more tied to parental contributions. Parental income will be factored into OSAP calculations for 6 years after high school graduation, rather than 4, which will assume that all students receive a certain level of parental support.  As such, both parents and students are expected to contribute more to financing a student’s education.

Repayment

  • Maintain the $25,000 income threshold for the repayment assistance program.
  • Repayment terms to match the Federal Government, and to charge interest during the six-month grace period.

The income threshold for the repayment assistance program will stay the same, meaning students will not have to begin repaying their loans until they have reached the point where they are earning $25,000. Repayment terms will now mirror that of the Federal Government, meaning that loan repayment will begin when you have graduated from your studies; have transferred to part-time studies; have left school; or are taking time off school for more than six months. There will be interest charged during the six-month grace period after departing from your studies. This means that for the first six months after you leave school, you will not have to make payments to your Ontario Student Loans, however interest does accumulate during this period.

For more information on the federal repayment plan: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/education/student-loan/pay-back.html

Moving Forward:

The Alma Mater Society represents over 18,000 undergraduate students and seeks to serve and represent the diversity of students at Queen’s University. This announcement means that tuition, student financial aid, and student services may be affected. The proposed changes announced by the provincial government would directly impact students across the province, and as such the AMS will continue to inform the student body as more information becomes available and advocate where possible.

While a decrease in the cost of tuition is beneficial, the Alma Mater Society is concerned that the announcement will lead to negative implications in affordability. The decrease in tuition will provide students with financial relief, however by reducing OSAP eligibility and replacing grant funding with loans will negatively affect students who require financial assistance. Further to that, mandatory student fees help ensure that students have access to  essential services.

The AMS is working with our partners at the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance and Queen’s University Relations to gain a full understanding of the proposed changes in order to advocate for our students to the provincial government. To further our advocacy efforts, we hope to bring student stories regarding how these changes will affect them to the provincial government. If you have a story to share, we ask that you tell us using OUSA’s submission form that is attached below. Alternatively, you can email the Vice President (University Affairs) Munro Watters at vpua@ams.queensu.ca to share your story.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdun2c8ttqEce6lvE45LmeyyY6Dt_Ovq6ZmyHcNfsyMNFmo6g/viewform

 

 

Please direct all media inquiries to Rachael Heleniak, AMS Director of Communications, at communications@ams.queensu.ca or (613) 533-6000 x 75850

BACKGROUNDER

Alma Mater Society (AMS) – http://www.myams.org

The central undergraduate student government at Queen’s University, the AMS represents over 17,750 students and is the oldest student government in Canada. There are over 1,000 student volunteers and 800 paid staff.