Education grants modified

On May 1, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities John Milloy announced changes to both the Distance and the Textbook and Technology Grant available to Ontario post-secondary students.

The new requirements only permit students who qualify and receive the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) to receive the grants.

This decision was made in light of the provincial budget released in March, which takes the economic crisis into account.

“We are going through some pretty extraordinary economic times,” said Milloy during a conference call with the Canadian student media.

With the new change to the grants, the provincial government will save just over $100 million.
These cuts are not isolated to the education sector.

“Certainly each ministry, including my own, took a hard look at where the pressures were and the resources that were available and we had to make tough decisions,” said Milloy.

In addition to the requirement changes for the grants, the government will not be increasing the amount given. Originally, the Textbook and Technology Grant was meant to increase to $250 per student annually as of fall 2009.

“The Textbook and Technology Grant will continue at the $150 level; we will not be able to increase it,” said Milloy.

Grant information

The grants were first implemented in the fall of 2008. The Textbook and Technology Grant provided $150 to all students. The Distance grant provided students living in isolated areas, away from post-secondary institutions, $500 per term for travel costs.

Although the grants were available to all students, those receiving OSAP received the grant automatically while others had to apply.

Milloy ensured that this change will not affect a large number of students, stating that over 70 percent of students who received the Textbook and Technology Grant and over 90 percent of students receiving the Distance grant last year were OSAP eligible.

Saad Aslam, chair of the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union board of directors, expressed his concern for students whose families have been affected by the recession.

“There are a number of students whose parents may have lost jobs…. If they lost their jobs in May or over the summer they wouldn’t be eligible for OSAP.”

Aslam, who has also been involved with the Ontario University Students Alliance (OUSA) and the Canadian Alliance of Students Association (CASA), is concerned with ensuring that post-secondary education is accessible to all students regardless of their financial situation.

“It’s not great to be cutting any sort of funding for post-secondary education and student assistance in a recession.”

The effects that the grant changes will have on students will not be clear until the fall. They do, however, reflect the impact of the economic crisis on funding for post-secondary education.

“We quite frankly don’t have all the resources that we thought we had,” said Milloy.

However, Milloy maintained a positive attitude in addressing the issue, stating, “We’re certainly trying to do everything we can to support students.”