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OSAP changes means more money for some students


Login to your OSAP account or visit the Financial Aid office to find out how the new changes affect your OSAP entitlement.

Kerra Seay | Interrobang | News | September 14th, 2015

New changes to Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) for the 2015 – 2016 academic year gives students across Ontario more control and flexibility when it comes to making financial decisions regarding their education.

The Ministry of Training, Colleges announced on Sept. 1 a list of changes to the existing Universities OSAP that offers better opportunities for financial aid than the old system.

The changes are as follows.

The maximum amount of funding per week has increased to $155 for single students and $355 for students who are married or have dependent children. This change was made to take rates of inflation into account.

In previous years, OSAP had a complicated system to calculate how much money a student would have to contribute to their education. OSAP has now replaced it with a flat rate of $1500 per school term, or $3000 per school year.

Martin Connors, who works in the Financial Aid office at Fanshawe, said this decision will cut out a lot of confusion for students.

“I think it makes it simpler for students to understand what they’re expected to bring to the table when they come to school,” he said.

Students used to only be permitted to earn up to $100 per week of income without being penalized. That meant that for 33 weeks of study students could only earn a maximum amount of $3300. That number has now jumped to $5600 per term, or $11,200 for a full year.

“That’s great,” Connors said. “It allows students to find employment during the study period and decreases their reliance on student loans.”

RESP withdrawals, bursaries, awards and scholarships were taken off dollar for dollar during an OSAP assessment. Now there is a $50 per week exemption for this money, allowing students who earned scholarships and other awards to actually benefit from them.

The first $3000 worth of assets is no longer being considered in an assessment. For example, if a student has $3450 in savings, OSAP only considers $450 as reported assets. This amount coincides with the $3000 expected annual student contribution.

Students with cars are also no longer being penalized, as the value of their vehicle does not impact their OSAP entitlement. This change will affect around 7300 students across Ontario.

OSAP now allows students to decouple their loans and grants. In previous years OSAP would issue an entitlement and the student would have no choice but to withdraw it all.

May Nazar from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, explains what decoupling loans and grants means.

“If a student wants to just take the grant money they qualify for and leave the loans, they can do so and conceivably walk away with no OSAP debt,” said Nazar in an email. “This change will provide students with the flexibility to choose the level of financial aid that helps them best meet their financial needs.”

Connors says Fanshawe students can go to the Financial Aid office if they want to decouple their entitlement and that they can change their mind if their financial situation changes.

“This choice isn’t set in stone,” he said. “They can elect before the next semester that they want the loans back if they don’t want the loans at all, depending on what their situation is with their finances.”

The final change to OSAP is that the Ontario Student Opportunity Grant Threshold has increased $100 from $7300 to $7400 annually. This means that any money awarded to a student that exceeds $7400 is considered a grant and does not have to be paid back.

Connors says in light of the number of positive changes made for the 2015 – 2016 academic year, the $100 increase is inconsequential.

“To take into perspective the increase in the amount of funding that students are receiving, I think that a $100 increase in the threshold isn’t really that much.”

The new changes are effective immediately for this academic school year.
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