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Ontario reshuffles grant program

by Laura Marchand March 1, 2016

Changes cover students from low-income households

It almost sounds too good to be true.

Ontario’s provincial government announced, alongside their new budget, a restructuring to the province’s university grant system. By scrapping existing tax credits, grants, and rebates, the government hopes to make tuition free for low-income students.

According to the CBC, The new Ontario Student Grant (OSG) is planned as a streamlined system that will reward the average cost of tuition to 90 per cent of Ontario students from low-income families. A low-income family is defined as one that makes less than $50,000 a year.

CBC also reports that university students from middle-income families—defined as a combined family income of less than $83,000 a year—will also be eligible to apply, with at least 50 per cent of them being granted, the government estimates.

Whether the student lives at home and other factors will affect the amount the student is given. In addition to tuition, the National Post claims the amount would theoretically be enough “to cover books, schools’ ancillary fees and some of their living costs.”

While Concordia University refused to comment on the effect this might potentially have on student enrollment from Ontario, Cléa Desjardins, a spokesperson for the university was able to confirm that 9.2 per cent of Concordia’s for-credit students were from out of province. That figure translates to roughly 4,000 students throughout the university.

The Concordia Student Union’s general coordinator, Terry Wilkings, praised the initiative. “The CSU supports making higher education more accessible, financially and otherwise,” said Wilkings. “Until the logistics have been polished I personally remain cautiously optimistic about the announcement in Ontario.”

However, Wilkings also warned against the possible effects it could have in other areas of education. “It could very well be a Trojan horse to further deregulate certain programs, like Quebec has done with international students.”

The initiative comes into effect in Fall 2017, leaving some existing students wondering if any relief is coming for them.

“I really want to see what they’re going to do about student debt that already exists,” said Alicia Chan, a Concordia student from Ontario. “I think it’s an important step in the right direction, but we’re still a long way from making post-secondary education accessible to everyone.”

When asked if the grants would have changed her mind about coming to Concordia, Chan said she doubts it would have made a difference. “I actually applied to Concordia on a whim because I fell in love with Montreal,” said Chan. “I think i would have ended up at Concordia anyway.”

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