Survey finds students confused about current OSAP system

A survey of post-secondary students regarding the perception and knowledge of the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) found that about a third of students are confused about how OSAP works.

The survey found many students didn’t know about the repayment plan for OSAP or thought it didn’t apply to them. Students were also confused about how long
the repayment grace period is for OSAP after graduation, which is six months.

Cassandra Cao, a senior researcher at the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) think tank, conducted the story as part of the organization’s “ongoing research on student financial barriers” in post-secondary education.

“This study was specifically designed to support work we are doing on evaluating the imminent reforms to [OSAP],” she said via email.

Cao said only 16 per cent of students are aware that the interest on the federal portions of OSAP loans begin accumulating immediately after graduation.

“Such a lack of knowledge can backfire and cause significant stress in life after university and college,” Cao said.

Nellah Ndaka, a second-year Carleton University neuroscience student, said she was surprised to hear about the fact that interest accumulates on federal loans right after graduation.

The survey also found 79 per cent of students did not know that OSAP can be used for post-secondary institutions outside of Ontario, as long as the student is an Ontario resident.

“I thought that the rules only apply to those attending schools in Ontario,” Ndaka said.

Cao said there needs to more research on how Ontario residents understand student financial assistance, and how this impacts student decisions to attend a post-secondary school. She said HEQCO is currently working on projects looking at the “impact” of the upcoming changes to OSAP.

“We are especially interested in the understanding student and parent perceptions . . . Progress on our new projects related to the OSAP evaluation will be updated on our website,” she said. “The new transformations to OSAP present a key opportunity to communicate with students about how the program works and change perceptions of student financial aid.”

– Photo illustration by Angela Tilley