EDITORIAL: Grants to students failed basic math

Auditor Genera Bonnie Lysyk’s annual report released Wednesday demonstrates why Ontario’s public finances were heading over a cliff when premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government was defeated in the June 7 election.

Lysyk’s audit of the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) is a case in point.

The year before the election, the Wynne government changed the funding model for OSAP — a $2 billion-a-year program providing financial support to university and college students.

The Liberals dramatically increased the amount of money available in the program for non-repayable grants to students, as opposed to repayable loans, to 98% from the previous year’s 60%.

As a result, the program’s cost rose 25% in one year.

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The number of students receiving aid increased 24% for university applicants, 27% for college applicants.

But enrolment in universities only increased 1% in universities, 2% in colleges.

Lysyk said while it was too early to determine the long-term implications of the new funding arrangement without more data over a longer period of time, the immediate impact was obvious.

“We concluded that a large portion of the new OSAP recipients were already attending college or university — and paying for it by themselves or with loans — even before they qualified for the new aid,” she said. 

Lysyk also said because of limited data collection by the Wynne government, it didn’t know whether OSAP recipients who had been out of high school for at least four years and were still living at home with their parents, “actually needed OSAP support.”

Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk releases the 2018 annual report at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Wednesday, December 5, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

So overall, here’s what happened.

There was a dramatic boost in taxpayer funding for a program intended to help more students from low- and middle-income families attend college or university.

But most of it went to higher grants, as opposed to loans, for OSAP recipients already enrolled in post-secondary institutions.

And because of limited data collection, the Liberals had little idea of whether those students needed the extra money to stay in school.

We suspect the Liberals didn’t much care which students got the money, as long as they voted Liberal in the June election.

Which is one more reason why Ontario’s finances were in such a mess when they were voted out in June after 15 years in power.

Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies