With 3 weeks to accept offers, some college students don’t know if they have loans

A London, Ont. college student says he must take a “leap of faith” and accept an offer of admission from his college without knowing whether he has secured a loan from the because applications are not yet available on the OSAP website.

After spending 10 years in the workforce, 31-year-old Ross Richard decided he wanted a pursue a better job. So he took advantage of free tuition offered under the old OSAP system to take a number of general trades courses in order to prepare himself for a two-year program as a renewable energy technician at Fanshawe College.

In January, the Progressive Conservative government made sweeping changes to the OSAP program, eliminating free tuition for low-income students while cutting tuition fees by 10 per cent across the board for all post-secondary students under the pretense it would make the system more affordable.

Now, with three weeks to go before the May 1 deadline for Ontario college students to accept their offers of admission, Richard said he still doesn’t know if he can actually afford his education.

He estimates he will need an OSAP loan of about $6,000 to return to school this fall.

‘I’m just going to go on a leap of faith’

“I’m just going to go on a leap of faith,” he said. “I’m going to have to start paying my registration fees when I don’t even know if I’m going to have funding.”

Last year Richard said he was able to apply for funding in February when Ontario college students begin sending their offers of admission to prospective students.

As of Thursday, he said, he is still unable to apply for a loan. The only indication of when he would be able to start applying for loans is on the OSAP website, which vaguely states “Spring 2019.”

“It would be nice if I had some general idea,” he said. “They’re not saying anything and it’s pretty frustrating.”

‘They’re causing a lot of anxiety’

The Canadian Federations of Students said it appears the province is still scrambling to implement the changes made by the Progressive Conservative government back in January.

“It really does put students in precarious positions,” said NourAlideeb, who is the chair of the Ontario chapter of the CFS.

“Based on the screenshot that you’ve sent me, they’re waiting to send that email out,” she said. “They’re causing a lot of anxiety. I think it’s unacceptable for the government.”

Alideeb said that, behind the scenes, Ontario’s post-secondary institution’s are struggling to keep up with the changes made by the Ford government.

“They’re under immense stress,” she said. “I don’t know why this government imagines everything to be pulled out of thin air.”

A spokeswoman for the province would not answer questions on when exactly Ontario college students will be able to find out whether they would get their loans.

“The 2019-20 application will be available to students this spring,” Ontario Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities spokeswoman Tanya Blazina wrote in an email to CBC News.

“OSAP applications begin to be assessed in early summer after students have submitted all supporting documentation,” she wrote.

“These changes to OSAP, announced in January, will be in place for the 2019-20 school year. OSAP will continue to provide financial assistance, to qualified students in post-secondary studies. It will continue to include grant, loan, bursary, scholarship and other aid programs.”

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