Ontario Student Assistance Program
The Government of Ontario offers financial aid for students through the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP). The objective of this program is to assist students with demonstrated financial need in obtaining the necessary funds to meet the ever-rising cost of postsecondary education. Ontario has committed to a Student Access Guarantee which states that lack of financial support programs shall not prevent any qualified Ontario student from attending publicly-assisted colleges and universities.
The financial aid is not meant to replace your existing financial resources, but rather to supplement them so that the cost is less of a burden. You are still expected to contribute towards your education according to your means, so only under extreme circumstances will the entire cost of education be covered. If the student loan program doesn’t provide sufficient funding then you can pursue various grants, bursaries and scholarships offered by the government, postsecondary institutions and other agencies.
The Ontario Student Assistance Program works in conjunction with the Canada Student Loans Program to provide financial aid for full-time students. Students receive funding in the form of a Canada-Ontario Integrated Student Loan, which is a single loan jointly funded by the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada. In order to be eligible for the Canada-Ontario Integrated Student Loan you must meet the following criteria:
- You must be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident of Canada, or a protected person
- You must either have resided in Ontario all of your life or Ontario is the last province where you resided for 12 consecutive months without attending a postsecondary institution
- You must be enrolling at an approved postsecondary institution in an approved program that is at least 12 weeks in length
- You must take at least 60% of a full course load, or 40% if you have a permanent disability
- If attending a private career college or non-degree program you must receive at least 20 hours of instruction per week
- You must not have exceeded the lifetime maximum of 340 weeks of funding (400 weeks if in doctoral studies)
- You must maintain satisfactory academic standing
- If you’ve received a student loan in the past then it must be in good standing
If you are taking from 20% to 59% of a full course load then you will be considered a part-time student. You will not be eligible for a Canada-Ontario Integrated Student Loan, but can apply for a part-time loan through the Canada Student Loans Program.
There are also grants, bursaries and scholarships available for both full-time and part-time students. Check the OSAP website for details of the individual awards to determine if you qualify.
Full-time students who apply for OSAP will be considered for the Canada-Ontario Integrated Student Loan and will also be automatically considered for several grants and bursaries without having to file a separate application.
There are two ways to apply for OSAP: online application and paper application. Almost all students choose the online application because it is much quicker, there is no application fee, you can get an immediate estimate of the amount of funding that you may receive, and you can check the status of your application online. If you prefer to use a paper application then you can print the form that is available on the OSAP website or obtain it from a student financial aid office.
It is best to apply early. If you are not yet sure which school you will be attending, then you can wait until you have received a notice of acceptance, or you can apply multiple times. It is recommended that you apply at least 10 weeks before your program begins to allow time for verification and processing.
Part-time students must use a paper application to apply for financial aid. The application form can be obtained from the OSAP website and student financial aid offices of postsecondary institutions. You can use a single form to apply for the Part-time Canada Student Loan, Canada Study Grant for High-Need Part-Time Students, Canada Study Grant for Students with Dependants, and Canada Access Grant for Students with Permanent Disabilities.
There are other grants, bursaries and scholarships for which you are not automatically considered when you submit an OSAP application. Some of these programs include the Ontario Special Bursary Program which provides up to $2,500 per year to students with low family incomes, and the Aird Scholarship which awards $2,500 to help students with disabilities to study full-time. There are several awards available so visit the OSAP website for eligibility requirements and other details.
Receiving Financial Assistance
You can use the OSAP website to check the status of your application. The website will provide up-to-date details on where your application is in the process, any outstanding documentation or errors, what has to be done before you get funding, the amount of funding you will receive, and who to contact for help. For online applications the status is usually available within five days. OSAP advises waiting four to six weeks before checking the status of a paper application.
The financial aid is typically released at two separate times, a portion at the start of your study period and the remainder about halfway through the academic year. In order for your funding to be released you will have to complete any necessary supporting documentation, such as the Confirmation of Enrolment Form. You must then pick up your personalized Loan/Grant Certificate from the financial aid office of your postsecondary institution and take it to a Canada Post outlet or a National Student Loans Service Centre kiosk for processing.
How Much Will You Receive?
The amount of financial aid you receive from OSAP will depend on your assessed financial need. OSAP calculates the financial need as the difference between your cost of education and the contribution that you are expected to make:
Financial Need = Allowable Educational Costs – Expected Financial Contribution
Your allowable educational costs include items such as tuition, books, living costs, transportation costs, etc. The expected contribution consists of your income and assets, you parents’ income, and your spouse’s income and assets (if applicable). Any difference between these amounts will result in a financial need. This value will vary greatly from student to student so it’s difficult to predict exactly how much you will receive. There is a student financial aid estimator located on the OSAP website that can give you a general idea of the assistance.
The maximum amount of financial aid that a single student can receive is $350 per week ($11,900 for a typical academic year with duration of 34 weeks). Married students or sole support students can receive up to $545 per week ($18,530 for a 34-week academic year).
If you feel that you did not receive adequate financial assistance then you can request a review of the OSAP application by contacting your financial aid office. If your request is denied then you can file an appeal with the OSAP Appeal Board. Attach any supporting documentation that will allow you to receive an appropriate reassessment.
Your Canada-Ontario Integrated Student Loan will be administered by the National Student Loans Service Centre (NSLSC). If your financial or academic situation changes then you should immediately notify the NSLSC to update your file.
The interest on your student loan will be paid by the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada while you are a full-time student. If you are a part-time student then you will be responsible for the interest payments.
Repayment of the student loan will begin after you graduate, stop attending school, or reach your lifetime assistance maximum. The NSLSC will send you a Consolidation Agreement stating the amount outstanding, minimum monthly payment and interest rate. Make sure you understand this document before signing it.
Full-time students will be awarded a six-month grace period after graduation during which they won’t have to make any payments, but the interest will start to accumulate during this period. Part-time students also have a six-month grace period but this applies strictly to the principal, you will still have to pay the interest on the loan.
Treat your OSAP loan like any other loan because it can seriously affect your credit rating and spending power in the future. If you face difficulties in repaying the loan then help is available but you have to proactively seek it. The NSLSC offers many programs to help with loan repayment, including interest relief and payment reduction. If you have a financial problem make sure you catch it at the beginning before it spirals out of control.