'You don't care': Students lash out at province over OSAP cuts

Ottawa students are about to learn just how far they'll have to stretch their budgets, as changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) became black-and-white this week.

Students in Ottawa just now learning what funding changes will mean

Students across Ontario are finding out this week how much assistance they can expect to pay for university. (Amanda Pfeffer/CBC)

Ottawa students are about to learn just how far they'll have to stretch their budgets, as changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) became black-and-white this week.

Students across the province have received updates on what they can expect to receive in loans and grants next year, and many have said they're shocked to see how significant the changes are.

Shuhiba Mohammad, a PhD student in human kinetics at the University of Ottawa, told CBC Radio's All In A Day her funding has been altered dramatically from a $5,200 grant last year to a $1,400 grant and a $6,400 loan this year.

She said the loan makes her nervous, because she doesn't know what the future economy holds. 

"I will have these loans lingering that I may or may not be able to pay depending on the job market," Mohammad said.

"I want to be able to afford to start my own family and own my own home, and that will get shifted."

Mohammad's program has her working with pregnant women when they go into labour, meaning she has to be on call all the time and can't take on part-time work to pay the bills.

As a PhD student, her tuition is relatively low, but she said she still needs financial support.

Shuhiba Mohammad and Tinu Akinwande in the CBC Ottawa studio. (Alan Neal/CBC)

Few options 

Tinu Akinwande, a third-year political science student, told All In A Day she got $16,000 last year. with the majority coming as a grant.

This year, her notice told her to expect $7,100, with most of that being made up by loans. 

"I am originally from Toronto, so it's not like I have family here where I could live with them to offset some of the costs," Akinwande said.

The OSAP cuts disproportionately affect people from minority and marginalized communities, said Akinwande, who then aimed her anger directly at the Progressive Conservative government.

"You don't care if I get an education. You don't care if I break my generational curse. You don't care if I lift my family out of poverty," Akinwande said.

No help from tuition reduction 

Both women said the province's decision to reduce college and university tuition fees by 10 per cent and the ability to opt out of some student fees is not going to be a major help.   

Mohammad said the student fee reductions could actually do more harm.

"By cutting student fees, you're cutting student services," she said. "So it's actually hindering the lives of students on campus."

In a statement to CBC Windsor, the Ministry of Training, College and Universities said students and their families make "great sacrifices" to pursue post-secondary education and that every dollar counts, which is why they reduced tuition fees.

"In order to address the previous government's unsustainable spending, in January our government announced we are restoring financial sustainability to OSAP, to ensure the program supports the students who need it the most for years to come," the statement said.


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