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Martini: Is OSAP really doing what it claims to be doing?

Maybe there’s a different way, writes columnist Gio Martini.

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File photo.

OPINION

Gio Martini
Columnist
The Avro Post
Our Opinion Policy.

The Ontario Student Assistance Program helps soften the financial hardship that tuition can place on a student, but should we begin looking into alternative options to support students who need financial assistance?

When Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservative Party were elected to govern Ontario, his changes to OSAP caught people’s attention.

He believed that the amount in grants they were providing to students was “unsustainable”, and that some students needed it more than others.  This impacted many people who rely on the funds to support them while finishing their studies.

Thinking about post-secondary education as an investment with financial consequences might sound economically reasonable, but you must have a path that allows those from lower income communities the option to attend.

Though it is worth debating whether schooling should be more affordable, even as much as being “free”, it’s hard to defend that a government run program such as OSAP is the most efficient way to tackle this issue.

For most students, OSAP is the most advertised (and/or their only possible) funding option. Being a government run program, OSAP can offer things that the private sector cannot, and can set the rules for their own existence. 

The design of the system allows them to treat their customers the way they want.  They can change grants to loans at anytime — without advertising it well — and make it difficult to dispute charges.

From my own personal experience I can attest to website errors, rude telephone support staff, and the inability to contact them on weekends.

When people graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in loans, it can be frightening to have to deal with such a powerful entity.

Perhaps the program could be delivered through the private sector and subsidized by the government, that way private companies can face more accountability in order to stay competitive with other institutions. 

Some students may have a more optimistic view of OSAP as it provides financial relief through its grants and temporarily interest free loans.

It may seem that it encourages people from low income communities to go to school, but OSAP doesn’t cover the opportunity cost of not working a full-time job or other living costs such as food and clothing, so for these individuals it’s still difficult to attend.

These grants and loans are likely subsidizing those who have already decided to attend post secondary school with or without the funding.

Could lowering tuition, and offering more “work for free accommodation” programs encourage these individuals to enrol in postsecondary education?

OSAP also provides financial assistance to individuals who are in programs that don’t necessarily lead to jobs after graduation and leaves them with an unaffordable bill to pay at the end of their studies.

Should the government only fund programs that will train students for in demand skills that the country will need? Or would it be a mistake to try and predict the demands of the future?

There are many questions that students and politicians should begin to ask but to blindly believe that more or less funding to OSAP is the only solution, may prove to be a costly error to both taxpayers and students. ■

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Bell Let’s Talk Day coming to Humber

Bell let’s talk day will be coming to Humber on Jan. 29.

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File photo of Humber College

Bell will be bringing their yearly Let’s Talk event to Humber College this week.

Let’s Talk Day is a national day of raising awareness about mental health and furthering the conversation of acceptance, support and to decrease stigma.

The day also encourages the use of various platforms including social media to engage individuals. Bell also donates money to mental health funds based on messages sent throughout the day on their cellular network and social media posts.

Bell will be hosting two events at both Humber North and Lakeshore Campuses on Jan. 29.

The first event will be held at North in the LRC, starting at 10 a.m. and finishing at 12 p.m. The second event will be held at Lakeshore in A170 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The event is open to both Humber and Guelph-Humber student

Students who wish to contribute to the cause can make a tweet, a social media video, use Bell’s Facebook frame or Snapchat filter and also use the hashtag #BellLet’sTalk on social media. ■

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Exclusive: Guelph-Humber will not be moving as strategic plan is developed

There are no plans to move the university as a new strategic plan is developed.

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File photo of the University of Guelph-Humber on Sept. 24, 2019 by Eli Ridder/TAP.

The University of Guelph told The Avro Post on Friday that there are no plans to physically relocate the University of Guelph-Humber “at this time” amid an ongoing process to develop a new strategic plan expected to be completed by the spring.

After a report revealed that last year that Guelph-Humber’s sole building at Humber College’s North Campus was over capacity and there were unverified rumours that the university would be moved, questions arose over its future.

Guelph-Humber was established in 2002 through a partnership between the University of Guelph and Humber College.

Officials pointed to a new webpage dedicated to bringing together all resources to do with the partnership between Guelph and Humber including an operational review undertaken during the fall of 2017.

There has not been a new strategic plan since the governing framework of Guelph-Humber was written in 1999 to establish the university and so a year-long process was launched last May to make a new plan, according to a press release from the presidents of Guelph and Humber.

Guelph-Humber graduates receive a bachelor’s degree from Guelph and a college diploma from Humber. Guelph-Humber students have access to many of the supports provided by Humber and are also members of the IGNITE student union. ■

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A new era for IGNITE

The next generation of directors will have new challenges.

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File photo of the IGNITE symbol.

With the passing of several bylaw amendments on Wednesday at a Special Meeting of the Members, IGNITE on Thursday strides into a new era with five months of decision-making behind it.

Elections will start in a matter of weeks and, for the first time in its history, the student union will not be electing executives. There will only be candidates for the Board, which sits at the top of IGNITE. 

There will be open seats at Humber College’s North, Lakeshore and Orangeville Campuses as well as at the University of Guelph-Humber. This next generation of directors will preside over a very different student union then the one the current term was handed last April.

In some ways, there will be more certainty.

They will enter a student union that has been reset with a new, more corporate direction moving forward through a new base rule: By-law No. 1 — which resets the rules for IGNITE with the bylaw amendments that students passed at the Special Meeting of the Members, combined with the skeleton of the previous Constitution.

That is not to say there will not be challenges. Chief among them will be the ongoing legal struggle over the Student Choice Initiative. Currently, the province is looking to appeal the decision made by the Ontario Divisional Court to strike down the initiative.

Several student unions, including the University of Toronto Students’ Union, have cancelled opt-out portals, ending its optional student fees and returning to the previous status quo of 100 per cent mandatory fees.

IGNITE reiterated its position on Wednesday that it would not end optional student fees while the SCI was in essential legal limbo.

If the Ford administration is successful in repealing the court ruling, student union officials said they would not want a scenario where they would have to flip-flop between mandatory and optional fees.

Directors will also have to manage hiring and overseeing the new student engagement coordinators, who will replace the current executive model.

They will be hired staffers within the student union and sit below the executive director and alongside part-time staff, according to graphics released by IGNITE. ■

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