Strengthening Student Support in Ontario
Ontario's 63 per cent postsecondary attainment rate is one of the highest of all OECD countries and the government's Open Ontario plan will raise it to 70 per cent. To meet this goal, Ontario is strengthening student support and making it easier and more affordable to go to college or university.
To help students, Ontario offers one of the most generous student financial assistance programs in Canada. In fact, over the past six years, the government has invested $1.6 billion in new financial support for students. The government also has moved forward with a plan to expand student aid even further and to modernize the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) to meet the needs of today's students.
Ontario has also made other recent improvements to help students. These improvements include:
Ontario's New Credit Transfer System
Ontario is introducing a credit transfer so that qualifications and learning experiences are given appropriate recognition (or credit) when students transfer to a new program or institution. Ontario's proposed credit transfer system will improve transfer opportunities for students at all stages of their education; it will help reduce costs for students and their families by optimizing the time taken to complete their studies.
New interactive website
To help learners choose a future career and get the financial support they need, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities has a new website, www.ontario.ca/tcu. It now features interactive tools, videos, updated information and easier navigation for choosing what and where to study or train, and how to pay for it.
Making the application available earlier
OSAP applications will be available in February 1, 2011, several months ahead of the May release from previous years. This will allow students to begin planning earlier and give them more time to collect the required information to submit with their applications. The new OSAP Aid Estimator is also now available to help calculate about how much financial assistance you may be eligible for.
Making the application for part-time students available online
Students attending a college or university program part-time may now apply online, making the process faster and easier. Submitting the on-line form will automatically put forward your application for any OSAP aid program available for qualified part-time students, including a new $500 grant.
This builds on earlier enhancements including:
More assistance for books, supplies and equipment
The government is increasing the book, supply and equipment allowance annually for inflation to ensure that it reflects the real costs faced by students and their families.
Doubling the student income exemption
Students can now keep more of the income they earn while in school without it affecting their OSAP funding. In previous years, students could earn up to $50 per week during their studies before their OSAP funding was reduced. To help students keep more of their income while in school, the government has doubled the income exemption to just over $100 per week. The exemption will increase annually to keep pace with inflation.
No interest period
The government now pays interest charges during the first six months after graduation, in addition to the six months of no payments that was previously offered. This makes the Ontario portion of all OSAP loans interest free and payment free for the first six months for all graduates.
New graduate scholarships
Starting in 2011-12, the government will award an additional 1,000 Ontario students with an Ontario Graduate Scholarship. This will increase the number of Ontario graduates receiving the award from 2,000 to 3,000 students.
Increased student loan maximums
Students have access to more financial support for their education. The government has boosted weekly loan maximums to $150 per week for single students, bringing the combined federal-provincial loan maximum for a standard two-term academic year to $12,240. The weekly loan limit for married students and students with children has increased to $350 per week, or $19,040 in combined federal-provincial funding for a two-term academic year.
More help for married students and students with children
To help married students, the government has reduced the share of income that a students' spouse is required to contribute to their education by 10 per cent. For married students and students with dependent children, the government has also doubled the OSAP vehicle exemption so that vehicles worth up to $10,000 do not affect the student's OSAP assessment.
More flexible, income-sensitive repayment assistance
On November 1, 2010, the government joined the federal Repayment Assistance Program to provide students with more help in repaying their Ontario student loan. Under the program, no graduate with financial difficulties is asked to pay more than 20 per cent of their family income towards their loans. After 15 years, any remaining student loan debt is forgiven.
The government has extended the current tuition framework for two years. Under this framework, colleges and universities are limited to raising tuition a maximum average of five per cent a year. Also included in this framework is the Student Access Guarantee (SAG). The SAG ensures that all students in financial need receive financial aid to cover the cost of their tuition, books and mandatory fees.
Reduced red tape
Colleges and universities must deliver the SAG funding automatically without an additional application. Ontario Access Grants and Distance Grants are now provided by direct deposit.