Deputy Premier and MPP for London North Centre Deb Matthews spoke to students and their parents about the province’s new Ontario Student Assistance Program at the Boys and Girls Club of London.
Matthews says the program — which is more generous and transparent — pools money from both the former OSAP and tax credits previously offered to graduates, to make post-secondary education funding more accessible.
Students applying to college and university for September will be the first to benefit from the new OSAP.
“Students from lower income families are 1/4 as likely to go on to post secondary as students from higher income families, and that is a big gap that we can’t afford. We need everybody at their very best, so we need to take down all the barriers — the financial barriers and the non-financial barriers,” explained Matthews.
During Thursday’s presentation, Matthews asked high school students how much they thought it would cost to attend post-secondary.
The answers ranged widely from $4,000 a year to $40,000 dollars.
Pointing out that prospective post-secondary students don’t realize how much it costs to attend university or college, Matthews then gave a demonstration of one of the new OSAP’s tools — an online calculator, which allows students to find out how much school will cost and how much funding they’re eligible for, years before even attending college or university.
Third year medical sciences student at Western University Hanein Madlol is excited about the new tool, because she relied on mentors at the Boys and Girls Club of London to help her apply for OSAP in the past.
“Nagivating through the actual website was the challenge, like the information was not all there. I feel like now, prior to actually applying, you can see how much aid your getting so it’s kind of nice to have a plan, prior to going to university,” she explained.
Matthews says the new OSAP will make the average tuition free for students whose families make less than $50,000 a year, while grants and loans doled out by the province have also become more generous.
She says the new program is also helpful for mature students, because the amount of funding a student is eligible for no longer takes into consideration how much time they’ve spent out of school.