Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) is a combination of grants and loans provided by the Ontario government and has single handily fucked me over countless times throughout my undergraduate career at Ryerson. OSAP takes into account student’s program expenses as well as personal financial need, and grants up to $20,000. It’s interest free and doesn’t require you to pay back your loan until 6 months after you graduate. The steps are simple to calculate how much money you are eligible to receive using their online calculator – for reference I yield a grand total of 0 Canadian Dollars. (This is primarily because I am not a permanent resident of Ontario, and partially because my parents are using an RSP to fund my tuition- read on for a further explanation)
I am 100% a supporter of higher level education, and I think OSAP is an excellent resource for Ontarian’s who would otherwise not have the financial resources to attend university to get the financial help they need.
So I guess to clarify my anger is not directed at OSAP per-say but rather at the unequal opportunities that Ryerson offers to students who are receiving OSAP, and moreover the LACK of opportunities for students who GOD FORBID are paying their own way through school.
The following is a brief summary of the ways in which not being eligible for OSAP has hindered my experience at Ryerson as an out of province student:
1. On campus jobs are reserved for OSAP receivers: I’m not just talking about the shitty on campus jobs like handing out towels at the gym, or swiping library cards at the library. There are 100s of internship, assistant, and administration level jobs being offered to students in their fields of study that are paying $13.50 + an hour (which is about 2 dollars above minum wage) and offers students the flexibility to schedule their own hours. Because I’m not a permenant residence of the province of Ontario – i’m not worthy of such jobs and instead have to treck my ass about 40 minutes on the subway to go serve up pumkin spice lattes for $11.50 an hour for a manager who could care less about granting me time off for my up-coming midterms, and assignments. This job doesn’t even make it to my resume because it’s so far removed from my field of study, where as if I were able to have applied for an on campus Business School administration or assistant positon it could very well have been one of the main attractions of my resume.
2. Students who are not in financial need are not eligible to apply for Ryerson Scholarships. I’ve spent the better half of the last three years in the Ryerson library (finally a service i’m allowed to use without being in financial need!!!) – colour coating notes, making flashcards, doing my course readings (FROM MY TEXTBOOKS THAT I SPEND ROUGHLY $400 DOLLARS PER SEMESTER OF MY OWN HARD EARNED CASH NO THANKS TO JUSTIN TRUDEAU – I digress), and i’ve missed a grand total of TWO classes during my entire THREE YEARS of university thus far. I have been working my cute and tight booty off (thanks to the ryerson gym – ANOTHER SERVICE I PAY FOR WITH MY OWN MONEY) to achieve a 3.8 GPA. When i’m not in the library or making the elliptical my bitch in the gym, I spend my time volunteering at a local elementary school for new comers to Canada, or planning events for the Women in Leadership club I hold a Vice President position on. All things that would make me a well rounded candidate for Scholarships but alas i’m not eligible to apply according to Ryerson’s exclusive policies. Instead these grants are going straight into the pockets of students who are ALREADY receiving grants and loans!!!!
3. Ryerson’s “free” resources are offered to students based on their financial need. As i’ve talked about before I have been dealing with mental illness for a number of years. Unfortunately every year since first year I’ve been turned down from Ryerson’s free counselling services. Since i’m not “poor” enough I unfortunately go to the bottom of the wait list and have to spend my own money on suicide prevention.
Maybe I wouldn’t be so angry about all of this reverse prejudice if it weren’t for the fact that all of my friends who are using OSAP’s services, have at some time or another confided in me that they are cheating the OSAP system, whilst reaping all the benefits. Some of my friends are like me and their parents are using an RSP to pay their tuition, but because they are from Ontario they still qualify for some government loans and are using these funds to fill a TSFA (tax free savings account), and earn interest for post-graduation traveling and god knows what else. Other friends of mine are having their parents lie about their financial earnings or are being paid cash for their part time jobs so that they can trick OSAP into thinking they are earning less money, so that they can obtain more grants. These are the same friends who have been granted wonderful on campus jobs, are being paid 13 dollars an hour, and who have accepted multiple scholarships because they fall into the category of “financial need”.
I know what you are thinking – I’m blinded by my white privilege and I’m a huge cunt. But you’re wrong. Yes I’m extremely blessed and grateful, I dedicate a great deal of my thanksgiving to being extremely thankful to my parents for working hard and believing in education, and believing in me, and helping me out so much with paying tuition, and helping me realize my dreams and all that shit. But it’s not like money was just handed to my family (and even if it was my arguments still hold true). My parents owned their own business, and ever since I can remember my brother and I were helping out around the store. When we were just kids we would sit in the back of the warehouse and put labels on paint cans. Once we got older we would sit and watch TV while simultaneously organizing invoices. Later when I was 14 I had to sweep and paint parking lines on the store’s parking lot (which keep in mind was just down the street from my high school and at the time this was the most embarrassing and humiliating thing for my 14-year-old self and the least the higher level education systems of Ontario could do is grant me an opportunity to redeem myself!). Since I was 15 I’ve been working an average of 3 jobs per summer to support myself. Even when I was galavanting Europe, I was juggling three jobs. So I’ve by no means just had everything handed to me. Working hard for money is a concept I know well.
The bottom line is money doesn’t grow on trees even for the best of them. We are all out here working hard whether that’s to put money away in an RSP by sweeping parking lots, or by lying to the government to get extra money to put into a TSFA for yourself. That being said I think it’s only fair that Ryerson university offers equal opportunities for all students to excel and receive on campus resources regardless of your financial background.
I realize my blog is becoming a rather high profile read so if this happens to fall into the hands of a Ryerson Administrator or perhaps Sheldon Levy himself than all I ask is for equal opportunity to excel on campus DESPITE financial standing.