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The implication of OSAP changes for nursing students – CNSA ONA Roundtable Discussion

CNSA is the national voice of Canadian student nurses. From January 21-26th, 2019, I attended the student-led National Conference where I participated in discussions regarding our curriculum, NCLEX changes, advocating for vulnerable populations, and in particular, changes to OSAP funding.

On January 17, 2019, Doug Ford’s government announced new payment changes and funding for postsecondary education in Ontario. These changes include reducing the family income threshold that is needed to make a student eligible for the Ontario Student Grant. With the previous OSAP requirements, families earning up to $175, 000 could qualify for funding, but that threshold is now reduced to $140,000. Under the new Progressive Conservative plan, low-income students no longer qualify for grants large enough to cover the full cost of tuition as now a portion of their funding will be in the form of a loan. Other changes include decreased grant-to-loan ratio (minimum 50% loan) and eliminating the six-month interest-free grace period. Additionally, colleges and universities will have to absorb the loss of revenue from the 10% tuition cut which will impact post-secondary institutions’ capacity to deliver high quality education. A second change to education legislation is making ancillary fees non-mandatory. This means that students will be allowed opt-out of non-essential fees, such as your CNSA membership and other student-lead campus initiatives that give students a voice.

At the CNSA ONA Meeting, we brought forward concerns generated from the student body regarding these recent changes. A major concern was in regard to how unpaid clinical placements is even more pertinent given the lack of OSAP funding that will be provided next year. For nursing students in particular who are required to write a licensing exam before they are allowed to practice, removal of the 6-month grace period will leave students to struggle with paying off their debt. The representatives in attendance at the roundtable agreed with our concerns and would be bringing them back to ONA. We will be following up with ONA to ensure that our voices are heard.

Our CNSA membership fees are levied from student ancillary fees meaning that our collective voice as Ontario and Canadian nursing students can be threatened. We will be working closely with our faculty to determine how students will be able to join CNSA and how we can remain a chapter school. Furthermore, this is an opportunity for CNSA to work with UTSU to determine what the implications will be for our CNSA membership.

As U of T Nursing students, we all have a say in this important issue. If you have any further questions or would like to voice your opinion, please do not hesitate to reach out to me to discuss this further.

Sasha Mazzarello

CNSA Associate Delegate - University of Toronto

First-Year BScN Student

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