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Ford Nation Slashes OSAP, Wants Uneducated Province

Updated on June 24, 2019
Christina St-Jean profile image

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more daily than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, & LGBT advocacy.

Students Scramble To Determine What's Next After OSAP Gets Hit

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Does Anyone Have A Money Tree?

It's been nearly three decades since I graduated high school and started university. I was very fortunate; my mom saved every one of the family allowance checks she got and stashed them in savings accounts for my sister and me so that we had something of a savings fund when we started post-secondary education. I also had a job that allowed me to supervise a computer lab in the student residence while working on homework, and my mom ensured that at least half of every paycheck I made over the summer went back into the bank account. I also inherited some money in my third year that allowed me to complete school without taking out a student loan.

However, post-secondary education was a whole lot cheaper three decades ago. Now, it's a regular occurrence that people are accessing loans - most likely through OSAP, the Ontario Student Assistance Program - in order to begin or continue their education. That is now in jeopardy, thanks to Ford Nation.

As we all know, not everyone has the means to cover the costs of post-secondary education. There are thousands of post-secondary students who work their way through school in order to keep going to school, and some of these students have loans while others don't. Those that are fortunate enough to receive a loan from the government have now learned that their dreams for the future are likely going to be dreams for a while longer because the Ford government has clamped down - hard - on OSAP loans.

For the uninitiated, OSAP stands for Ontario Student Assistance Program. There are many students who rely on these loans simply to get them through the year without having to choose between eating and paying for books, or eating and paying rent so they can keep going to school and eventually move on to a career in a field that they want to work in. Some students have had their loans slashed by half due to the government's cutbacks, which means there's a very real possibility that they may have to take time off and earn more money so that they can go to school and actually survive on the money they have.

I realize fully that OSAP is not meant to be an inalienable right to students, and as one of many across Canada dealing with debt, the last thing you want is to have debt hanging over your head, regardless of whether you're starting a career or not. I also realize that as a province in debt, Ontario needs to cut somewhere.

However, if we're going to follow Ford's mantra that Ontario is "open for business," cutting a student's ability to be successful and employed is not the way to keep said business open and successful.

It's long been shown by people working throughout a number of fields that education of some stripe or another is essential to people pulling themselves out of poverty and just generally being successful. Cutting education funding means that you've got a population who will probably be looking for little more than a minimum wage job, because that's probably what they're qualified for as they haven't been able to get further education due to cuts at the elementary and secondary levels and due to OSAP funding cuts, and a population who is reaching out for social assistance in order to survive because the cost of living is such that it's incredibly difficult to survive, let alone thrive, on a minimum wage job.

Not everyone has been born into a rich family. I do not begrudge those who are well off, as it takes a lot of hard work in order to get there. However, I have a problem when a premier who dropped out of college and continues to benefit from his family's fortune simply takes away the money that students need in order to survive post-secondary education. I realize that post-secondary education is not to everyone's tastes, but the fact is, it's training that more often than not, employers are looking for, particularly if you're looking for a job with a decent income.

Given the cost of tuition alone - something Ford and his crew probably have a limited idea about - slashing OSAP funding is not the way to help these university and college students get into the "real world" and be contributing members of society without living below the poverty line.

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