More people receiving student aid, but enrollment relatively stagnant: AG report
Changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) aren’t attracting more students to post-secondary education, but instead, benefit existing and mature students, according to Ontario‘s auditor general.
Bonnie Lysyk’s annual report looked at the hundreds of millions of dollars handed out to students in financial need from March 2017 to March 2018.
The former Liberal government retooled OSAP last year, giving more students grants as opposed to loans, hoping to increase access to college and university enrollment.
Lysyk’s report found in the first year of the new program, the number of people receiving aid rose by 25 per cent while enrollment only increased by 2 per cent.
“The uptake of financial aid to date has exceeded expectations,” Lysyk’s report states, noting that the latest government budged projects the program could cost $2 billion per year, by 2020/21.That would be a 50 percent increase from 2016/2017.
The report explains that although the elimination of a tuition tax credit was expected to offset the increased number of grants, that has not transpired.
“As this was the first year for the new eligibility rules, it may not yet be possible to draw long-term conclusions, but it certainly bears watching,” the report says.
The report also found there was a 33 per cent increase in the number of mature students, those who have been out of high school for four or more years, who received OSAP. The report noted that almost 30 percent of these mature students said they lived at home with their parents.
Under the eligibility criteria, parental income is only considered when the student has only been out of high school for less than for year, and not if the applicant is a mature student, even if they’re still living with parents
“The Ministry did not know whether the (mature) students actually needed OSAP support,” the report reads.
The government also spent $65 million dollars during the last fiscal year on grants to students, who eventually withdrew from their studies.