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Metro explains: What changes to OSAP mean for students

The Ontario government proposed several reforms to the student-loan program in last week’s budget.

Carleton University's sign is seen in 2016.

Haley Ritchie / Metro file

Carleton University's sign is seen in 2016.

Last week’s budget announced several new changes to the way the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) works, and re-announced several changes we already knew about.

Among them, recent graduates can now wait until they make $35,000 a year before starting to pay back the provincial portion of their OSAP loan, up from $25,000. Students graduating this year can take advantage of the change.

The province also announced it would change how it calculates a student’s income when determining OSAP eligibility: contributions towards a Registered Retirement Savings Program (RESP) and federal income received by indigenous students under the Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP) are no longer counted towards income.

Also changed, mature students — those out of high school for more than four years, whether single, married/common-law or a sole support parent — can now get the same OSAP benefits as younger students.

Gayle McFadden, a representative from the Canadian Federation of Students Ontario applauded the changes, but said they didn’t go far enough. “There was no real address of the cost of education, of the fact that students pay the highest tuition fees in the entire country,” she said.

Many of the other changes were previously announced, but will take effect in September.

Among them, the government is merging several tax credits and five OSAP grants into a single program called the Ontario Student Grant. It promises to provide enough grants to students from families making less than $50,000 to completely cover the cost of their tuition.

The government has said several times that these changes will allow more than 210,000 students in the province to get free tuition. But questions about how this number was calculated were not answered Monday.

Students will now also receive all of their OSAP money when they ask for it, meaning they can pay off costs such as tuition at the beginning of the year, according to Tanya Blazina, spokesperson for the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development.

The maximum amount of aid that an eligible student can receive each week is also going up to $180 per week in 2017-2018 for a single student (up from $160 in 2016/17) and $450 per week for students who are married or have children (up from $355 in 2016-17).

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