The ministry website is an excellence resource for students. Students can use the website to: Apply Online, Update Their Files, Check Their Status, Learn What's New, etc.
McMaster University prepared a valuable resource for Guidance Counsellors to aid them in helping students understand the process involved in applying for and accessing the Ontario Student Assistance Program –OSAP. Theory from this resource, http://sfas.mcmaster.ca/highschool.html, as well as, new articles from the Ontario government web site has been used to compile this summary.
What is OSAP?
OSAP is the Ontario Student Assistance Program which allows residents of Ontario to access Federal Canada Student Loan Program and Provincial Ontario Student Loan Program. In the other provinces, students access government loans through more than one source but in Ontario there is only one access point – OSAP. These loans are now ”integrated” requiring one repayment arrangement and they are managed through the National Student Loans Service Centre.
OSAP is intended to help students meet the educational and basic living costs of post-secondary education. The purpose of OSAP is to supplement, not replace the financial resources that the student and parent are expected to contribute.
OSAP assistance is based on financial need, as determined through an application process.
Benefits of Applying for OSAP
It must be emphasized that it is only by applying for OSAP that students can access specific government supports such as Queen Elizabeth II ”Aiming for the Top” Tuition Scholarship. This scholarship is based on academic excellence (80%). The value is based on financial need of a $100 minimum to $3500 maximum, not to exceed actual tuition/compulsory fees. This scholarship is renewable up to 4 years as long as academic standards are maintained.
- Ontario Work Study Program – students can earn $1000 per semester by registering in this program (app. 10 hours /week)
- Ontario Special Bursary Plan – for people with dependents
- Access Grants - The Province of Ontario provides the Ontario Student Loan portion of the Canada-Ontario Integrated Student Loan. Starting in 2005-2006, access grants will be provided towards the tuition costs of first-time, first-year and second-year dependent students from low-income families.
When to Apply
It is recommended that students apply as early as possible using the correct application form for their academic year. The OSAP web application is available for the next graduating class in mid April and this is the preferred way to apply. A paper application is also posted to the website at this time. Copies of paper application forms are generally available in late May. Students should submit their OSAP online application at least 10 weeks before classes begin, to allow sufficient time for verification and processing. Payment of the application fee is mandatory (except in cases of family breakdown). A student may pay by attaching a cheque or money order to the application form or by calling 1-900-565-3434 which applies the charge to the phone bill of the number which is calling. Applications will not be processed until the fee is received.
· Online at http://osap.gov.on.ca (It’s free!)
· Or, PDF file from http://osap.gov.on.ca costs $10 to process.
· Or, booklet application which is available late June/July from post-secondary institutions costs $10 to process.
A student should apply to OSAP as soon as they accept an offer of admission to a university or college. It is also important to check the deadline for the Queen Elizabeth II scholarship (mid June) and no later than the first week in July if one intends to use OSAP to cover tuition fees at their post-secondary institution.
Who is Eligible to Apply?
The only people that can apply are
· Canadian citizens who are permanent residents and protected persons in Canada who meet Ontario residency requirements
· Students who plan to attend the up coming school year full time
All eligible students are encouraged to apply. An OSAP application opens up many opportunities.
How Much Can Students Expect to Receive? (Entitlement, Estimates and Maximums)
OSAP entitlements take program costs, basic living costs, and both student and parent income into consideration. Other factors affecting entitlement include number of dependents in the family, number of dependents attending post secondary institutions, student assets, etc.
A student is a “dependent” upon his/her parent until he/she has been out of school for 4 years because parents/step-parents/legal guardians, along with the student, have “expected contributions” under the OSAP entitlement calculation. Regardless of whether the family is actually able to make this contribution, the calculation does not change.
There are different allowances for students who live at home versus away from home. A student is expected to live at home if the parental home is in the same city as the institution he/she is attending. If the parents indicate the home is greater than 40k from the institution, or it takes one hour or more travel time in public transit the student may be considered away from home. The student’s residence must be closer to the institution than the family home.
The maximum OSAP entitlement for the school year 2004-2005 was $275 max per week for 32 weeks. The amounts for the upcoming school year are not available yet but the dollar value is expected to increase.
Documents to Support the Application
The student is responsible for ensuring all the required documentation is present. Support documentation includes immigration records, letters documenting how living costs are met if reported family income is less than $6200, marriage certificates, signature pages, etc.
It takes approximately 10-14 days after a web application is submitted for processing, then the student will receive a “web package” in the mail. The package will contain signature pages that the student must submit back to their educational institution’s Financial Aid Office for keying. The student must ensure that all appropriate signatures are provided (student and parent/step-parent/guardian). The signatures allow the Ministry to verify reported income with Canada Customs and Revenue, to collect and disclose personal information with scholarship administrators and to collect information from the Social Insurance Register, to verify credit ratings and to confirm that all information provided on the application is true and correct.
If the Financial Aid Office or the Ministry of Training and Colleges and Universities determine that additional information is requested, the student will be sent a notice describing the documentation required. Funding will not be released until all required supporting documentation, including signature pages, has been received and processed.
Notice of Assessment/Entitlement
Once the application has been processed and the student’s financial need is assessed, the student should check his/her status on the web at http://osap.gov.on.ca. A student could receive a “nil assessment” which tells the student his/her resources appear to be sufficient to meet the educational costs.
If a student receives a “nil assessment” and he/she feels the assessment was not fair in light of a family circumstance (eg. Parent lost their job), the student should visit the Financial Aid Office to determine in an appeal is possible.
Students must pick up their OSAP loans in person at their post secondary institution once classes begin. Students should not assume the money will always be there on time for the first day of classes. It could take several weeks for the money to arrive. Back up financial arrangements should be in place.
Students must bring validated student ID cards, their SIN card, a valid photo ID (ie. Driver’s license) and personal banking information (or void cheque) for the OSAP release. The student will need to declare actual earnings/income for the summer and any changes to their estimated study period income, program, etc. Students sign a “Confirmation of Enrolment” which is keyed to update their application and which also sets up the production of their second term loan. Any fees owing to the educational institution will be remitted from the loan.
Student loans and overpayments must be repaid! Students are responsible for beginning to repay their loan six months after they have completed their studies or have stopped being a full-time postsecondary student. The interest on one’s loan accrues from the time they stop being a full-time postsecondary student. The actual rates and conditions for repayment are set at the time they begin repaying.
It is hoped that this summary shows you how OSAP works and you have a better understanding of your responsibilities.