Last week, many students attending Ontario universities and colleges in the fall were shocked to find they were receiving only half of the grant and loan money they had been awarded the year before when Ontario Student Assistance Plan (OSAP) assessments were posted. 

The $670-million-dollar cut to OSAP was part of a package of post-secondary changes released by the Ford government in January, including mandating a 10-per-cent tuition cut from all post-secondary institutions. 

Below are the stories of four students whose academic futures are in question in the wake of Ford’s OSAP cuts.

Carleton student Nadia Hansen: “It’s not going to further equality”

Human rights and social justice student Nadia Hansen used to qualify for fully covered tuition for low-income families, and got $14,000 or $15,000 each year in grants. Now, she’s only slated to receive about $9,000 – barely enough to cover her tuition. 

Her father died last January, and now her family has to worry about where the extra tuition money will come from while they’re still grieving. “It’s going to be disproportionately affecting people of colour, people who come from families of lower income, that’s usually people of colour, (and) minority groups,” Hansen says. “At the end of the day I just feel like it’s systematic discrimination.”

Ryerson student Samantha Cryille: “I’ve been so upset I’m numb

Cryille, who is going into second year, thought she was going to get more money this year than last year since her father hasn’t been working and she’s moving downtown.

Instead, her OSAP funding was slashed in half, from about $7,200 in loans and grants to $4,200, all in loans. “I’m not going to be able to finish [university] when I want to finish, which is going to cost me even more at the end,” she said. 

Carleton PhD student Shuhiba Mohammad: “ I didn’t expect it to be this drastic”

Human kinetics PhD student Mohammad got $5,200 in grant funding last year. Now, she has been offered a $1,400 grant and a $6,400 loan. Mohammad, who lives on a tight budget of about $25,000 a year — she also has a $15,000 scholarship — is not sure what she will do to pay the bills.

She’s working on a human placenta research project and has to be available 24 hours a day, and teaching assistant work is limited. “If I keep adding to my loan, I’ll never be able to buy a home or start a family,” said Mohammad.

University of Toronto student Rebecca Gao: “I am going to dip into my savings to pay for tuition”

Gao, going into her fourth year is losing approximately $4,000 this year compared to last.

She comes from a low-income family, so tuition has been free and she’s used the other funding for textbooks and living costs. Now, she’ll have to start spending her savings to stay in school. “I am going to have to dip into my savings further to cover the rest of tuition, books, cost of living, food and rent. School isn’t just tuition. I probably spend $1,000 on books each year,” she said.