Kate’s vision: An Ontario where every person has access to post-secondary education.
Every young person in Ontario deserves the opportunity to pursue postsecondary education or training. Some hesitate to even apply to a college or university because they worry about tuition costs or graduating with a mountain of student debt. We believe that attending a college or university should be based on your ability to learn, not on your ability to pay.
In Ontario, more students are entering post-secondary education than ever before. That success isn’t shared equally. Though participation from Ontario’s lowest-income families has increased, just 55% of those kids are enrolled in a college or university by age 19, compared to over 84% of kids from higher-income households. First-generation students (those whose parents didn’t complete postsecondary), low-income students, Indigenous students, and students with disabilities are all less likely to enrol in postsecondary education. Removing financial barriers, investing in students early, and supporting institutions can have an impact. We have to do better, and we already know-how.
Before the conservative government slashed the “new OSAP” program, Indigenous students had the biggest increase in applications - by 36%. Applications from mature students and students headed to college both grew by 28%. We recognize that increasing equity and access to education is a core component of well being.
That's why we will redesign OSAP to help people who need it most.
To improve the affordability, quality, and access to post-secondary education for all Ontarians, we will:
Re-introduce targeted free tuition for low and middle-income families.
The conservative government scrapped a tuition program in 2018 that issued non-repayable grants to more than 234,000 students across Ontario. This makes post-secondary education less affordable and less accessible. The program removed the up-front cost for students who need it most. It also helped students graduate debt-free. Our plan will re-introduce targeted free tuition in Ontario to support our students to prepare a highly skilled workforce for the new economy.
Targeted free tuition means more people can access education and specifically allows access for students who may not otherwise consider college or university. We will re-introduce targeted free tuition for low and middle income households with a $1.2 billion investment. In many cases, low and middle-income applicants will receive additional funds beyond the cost of tuition to help with the cost of living as a student. The program will also provide non-repayable grants on a scaled system to students from families with annual incomes up to $140,000.
Once back in place, the new OSAP will be available to adult students, married students, students with children, dependent students and single independent students. We will be using data to evaluate the success of the program and ensure equity-seeking groups experienced increased access.
Invest $10 million to provide a provincial education bond for Ontario children.
Studies show that youth who have even modest savings earmarked for their education are 50% more likely to participate in post-secondary education than those who have none. If future students own an asset, they are more likely to use it.
An investment of $10 million per year would allow the province to pay a bond of $700 to all children born to families in the bottom income decile. When combined with the Canada Learning Bond, the total value of the endowment at age 18 would be over $4,000, before any other contributions into the RESP. Our plan will invest in students early, remove financial barriers and increase participation.
Work with rural partners to develop a rural PSE strategy to help more students apply.
Free tuition for low and middle-income families will help students across the province access post-secondary education. Our new program will factor in the costs of relocating and commuting. Making education more affordable won’t address all of the barriers faced by students, particularly in rural areas of Ontario. Young people from remote northern regions are significantly less likely than those in southern urban areas to attend post-secondary. Working with municipal, Francophone, Indigenous, and post-secondary partners, we will develop a rural PSE strategy to ensure students have the opportunities they need to succeed.
Be an active partner in promoting and funding sexual assault prevention and awareness programs.
Since the enactment of the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act (Bill 132), post-secondary institutions must have set in place stand-alone sexual violence policies. We will continue to work with universities and other post-secondary institutions and increase funding to ensure policies are reviewed, updated, and implemented as needed. We will also increase funding to local and community-based sexual assault services across Ontario to expand access to integrated resources in order to ensure coordinated supports for students.
We also commit to continuing the Campus Climate Survey, and using the data to better understand the gendered & racialized component of sexual violence and harassment on our campuses. We will work tirelessly to ensure everyone in the province can live in safety, free from the threat, fear, or experience of sexual violence and harassment.
Double the Ontario Part-Time Grant.
Part-time students do not have the same access to OSAP as full-time students and need greater financial support. We will double the Ontario Part-Time Grant from $500 to $1000 per academic year.
- Bring back and expand the interest-free grace period for students and increase the repayment threshold.
We will introduce a one-year interest-free grace period for graduating students. During the six-month grace period extension, no payments will be required on your Ontario Student Loan and the Ontario portion of your Canada-Ontario Integrated Student Loan. Further, students will not have to begin paying back their loans, if they have any, until they are earning a minimum of $35,000/year.
- Allow new parents to take an interest-free break from paying off student loans until their youngest child turns five.
We will match the recent federal government announcement to allow new parents an interest-free break on their debt repayment. As we make post-secondary education more affordable and accessible for students of all ages, we need to support Ontario families. Combined with the interest-free grace period and the increase in repayment threshold, Ontario will forego $15 million per year in interest revenue to save students thousands of dollars each year.
Develop a Student Mental Health Strategy for those attending post-secondary education
Mental health is one of the most pressing issues for students pursuing post-secondary education today. With students’ unique needs for support services, we recognize that we need to more efficiently and effectively address this demand. We will develop clear roles and responsibilities of government ministries and implement targeted strategies for post-secondary students’ mental health, outlining the role of community agencies and post-secondary institutions in supporting those in need.
Increase support for Ontario’s international students.
Over the last 5 years, the population of international students has increased by over 73% in Ontario. While these new, skilled students have provided unprecedented growth for post-secondary institutions and our communities, there have been clear growing pains. We will work with post-secondary institutions to improve the campus and community supports provided to international students, helping them better adjust to their new lives in Ontario and maintain strong mental and physical health.