Toronto

'I've been just so upset': Meet some of the students affected by OSAP cuts

From taking fewer courses, to finding a part-time job or even postponing their final year, post-secondary students are trying to figure out how their new OSAP funding will cover their expenses. 

Doug Ford's cuts to post-secondary education hit a diverse group of students

Ontario university and college students say the OSAP reductions came as a huge shock. (From top left: Hyla Golden Del Castillo, Nate Mantle, Nicole McNeil. From bottom left: Samantha Cryille, Michael Bellucci).

From taking fewer courses, to finding a part-time job or even postponing their final year, post-secondary students are trying to figure out how their new OSAP funding will cover their expenses. 

Ryerson student Samantha Cryille thought she was going to get more money this year than last year, since her father hasn't been working and she's moving downtown. 

Instead, her Ontario Student Assistance Plan (OSAP) funding was slashed in half, from about $7,200 in loans and grants, to $4,200, but all in loans.

"It's gotten to the point that I've been just so upset the last few weeks that I'm numb," said Cryille.

Her solution is a part-time job to make up the difference, but she knows that comes at the price of a smaller course load.

"I'm not going to be able to finish [university] when I want to finish, which is going to cost me even more at the end," said Cryille, who is going into her second year.

Angry students take to Twitter 

The situation isn't much better for Hyla Golden Del Castillo. She lives on the Danforth with her dog. For the 2018 school year, she was given grants from the Ontario government, but for next September that entire amount was turned into a loan.

With no one to help her, she worries about the interest and having to start paying that money off upon graduation.

These women aren't the only ones scrambling to figure out their finances. Earlier this week, #OSAP was trending on Twitter when students were shocked to learn how much financial help they'd be getting in the coming school year. 

"We've been preparing for this since January when the government cut $670 million dollars from the OSAP program," said Felipe Nagata, chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students Ontario.

On Wednesday the Canadian Federation of Students Ontario polled Twitter, asking university and college students whether their OSAP covered their tuition. Nagata says 70 per cent of respondents said 'no'.

"We've also seen a huge increase in the amount of loans they're getting compared to grants," said Nagata. "This is something we don't want because it's not sustainable. We're increasing the student debt in the long run and creating barriers to education overall."

"The government is prioritizing a-buck-a-beer over education," said Nagata. 

Dropping out in final year 

Two Toronto students are now considering dropping out in their last year if they don't get the amount they need.

Nicole McNeil is still completing her OSAP application. Over the past three years, OSAP paid for her tuition and she was able to pursue a post-secondary education, something most of her family wasn't able to do. If this year's funding is lower than before, she won't graduate.      

"I will definitely have to postpone [my degree] and take on a full-time job to pay for it later," said McNeil.

For Lynn Mantle and her son Nate, the education cuts have hit hard. The provincial government's announcement earlier this year eliminated the fully covered tuition put in place by the Liberals for families earning less than $50,000.

"There should be some kind of legal recourse [considering] what this does to low income families," said Mantle.

Mantle says her son suffers from Tourette syndrome and had his tuition and living costs fully covered because of that disability. Now his grant money is nonexistent and the loan he's been given isn't enough to cover living expenses.

This is not for the people, I am the people and so is my son,- Lynn Mantle

"This is not for the people, I am the people and so is my son," said Mantle referring to Premier Doug Ford's campaign slogan — "For the People."

'Unnecessary stress'

The Provincial Conservative government maintains its cuts to OSAP were necessary to "address the previous government's unsustainable spending".

In a statement sent to CBC Toronto, it goes on to say that students and their families "make great sacrifices to pursue post-secondary education. For them, every dollar counts. This is why our Government introduced an unprecedented 10 per cent reduction in college and university tuition fees."

A previous report by CBC found those cuts only amount to less than $1,000 in yearly savings for most university undergraduates. The reduction doesn't cover the loss in OSAP funding students are being hit with.

Michael Bellucci says he hopes to land a work/study position at McGill University to help offset what he's lost in OSAP money. But in a school of 40,000, he admits the chances are slim.

"The school says it's mindful of what's going on in Ontario," said Bellucci. "It's definitely an added burden and a lot more unnecessary stress."

About the Author

Natalie Nanowski

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Natalie is a storyteller who spent the last few years in Montreal covering everything from politics to corruption and student protests. Now that she’s back in her hometown of Toronto, she is eagerly rediscovering what makes this city tick, and has a personal interest in real estate and investigative journalism. When she’s not reporting you can find her at a yoga studio or exploring Queen St. Contact Natalie: natalie.nanowski@cbc.ca

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