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Advocacy group pushes for overhaul to Ontario Student Assistance Plan

The Ontario Student Assistance Plan, the primary means by which the province helps its low- and middle-income students pay for post secondary education, hasn’t updated its needs assessment model to reflect the current cost of living for students, according to an Ontario student advocacy group.

“The current needs assessment formula makes no distinction between different regions in Ontario and its cost of living in those places, meaning the system predicts that the cost of a student at the University of Toronto campus living in downtown Toronto, is the same as the cost of living for a student living in Thunder Bay at Lakehead University,” said the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) in a statement.

The Ontario Student Assistance Plan (OSAP) is a needs based program run by the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities and funded by the federal and provincial governments. It provides loans, grants, scholarships and bursaries to help students pay for tuition, books, mandatory fees, living costs and transportation.

But when it comes to living costs, OUSA said students are expected to feed themselves on $7.50 per day.

“Not only is that amount grossly inaccurate and a nearly inhumane expectation of young adults, if a student were actually to live on those amounts, they would almost surely not be receiving proper nutrition and eating a regular balanced diet,” said OUSA. “This is just one of the many problems with the current OSAP system. Its failures must be highlighted to the government so they will fix it.”

So OUSA has decided to launch Food for Thought, a campaign it said is designed to emphasize the problems with OSAP. During March, some students from across the province will try to eat on $7.50 per day.

“They will be blogging and vlogging about their experience, struggle and challenges of living on the OSAP needs assessment formula,” said OUSA. 

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