On Feb. 25, Financial minister Charles Sousa released Ontario’s 2016 budget plan, which outlines how the Ontario government will be spending our money for the next year. Sousa has unveiled a record of a $133.9 billion spending plan with a $4.3 billion deficit, which he hopes to eliminate by the time he balances the books next year.
A proposition was made, introducing free tuition for students who come from families who earn less than $50,000 a year, which should start in the 2017-2018 year. With this revamp on our student aid system, the Ontario government hopes to eliminate financial concerns that prevent students to further their studies in post-secondary education. The Ontario government indicates through the budget plan that by canceling the tuition tax credit and the education tax credit, this will result in saving $145 million in 2017 and as well being able to fully operate this new grant plan.
The government is trying to make paying tuition easier by providing a single up-front grant before tuition is due. This is a critical aspect of the plan, as many students in the OSAP program receive grants later in the year or through a tax rebate, which can happen at the end of the year.
Adam Lawrence, Dean of Students at the Laurier Brantford campus, likes the idea of the new change. “The idea of turning tax credits into grants – some might lose money, but access to education is an important priority.” This initiative can be the first step of solutions regards making financial accommodation for students. “This will give students with financial as well as academic concerns some relief when already having to deal with typical daily tasks,” said, Lawrence.
Consequences that can offset the costs in the future are unclear. As well, issues of implementing this new grant system could arise since tuition fees have been increasing since 2003. The Ontario government intends to use a new funding formula, which takes into account the resources accumulated in each program and gives grants accordingly. Meaning programs such as music that have more costs are refunded the amount with more grants, and programs for businesses that don’t use a lot of resources receive less accordingly.
This new grant plan is being implemented after the maximum tuition fee increase cap of three per cent is set to expire in 2017. This offers the government to increase the tuition fees as high as they desire and as well buried the fact how maximum loans are to be increased to as high as $40,000. Although this information has been released recently as it is development for implementation for 2017. Students that are currently a part of the OSAP program will not receive any debt wipe for years already paid. But this new student aid system should be looked as a positive opportunity for fewer costs for when it is available. As well, for students not from low-income families, changes may result in a slight reduction in costs.