TORONTO - Ontario graduates desperately need financial relief to get through the pandemic, said NDP MPP Chris Glover (Spadina-Fort York), the NDP’s critic for Colleges and Universities.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has led to massive job losses and has greatly affected people’s income in Ontario,” said Glover. “Graduates are feeling the enormous pressure of having a large loan, growing with interest each day and having no money to pay it. It makes absolutely no sense to force payments from graduates and students who have lost income through no fault of their own.”
Glover held a press conference on Friday where he was joined by Madeline Lemire, a Ryerson University graduate; and students Brandon Amyot (Lakehead University Orillia) from the Canadian Federation of Students Ontario, and Tori Arnett (St. Lawrence College) President, College Student Alliance.
Since 2018 Ford has reduced OSAP funding by $2.1 billion over 3 years, forcing students to take on much more student debt. In 2020, the Ontario and Federal Government paused OSAP student debt payments between March 30 and September 30. But the pandemic is not over and students are struggling with the loss of jobs and income as well as the highest student debt levels in the country.
“In April 2020, I was laid off from my job due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a situation totally beyond my control,” said Madeline Lemire, a 2015 graduate from Ryerson University. “I live in Toronto, where rents are already expensive, and have been searching for employment in a very difficult job market. With a $370 monthly student loan payment, it is difficult to balance paying rent and grocery bills today, let alone saving to buy a home or start a family in the future. Pausing student debt payments would be a huge relief.”
Many people have lost income, wages, employment and hours through direct or indirect impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, but Ontario has provided no support on student debt payments since September 30, 2020.
In contrast, U.S. President Joe Biden acknowledged the importance of helping students with their financial burden by extending the pause on student debt payments until September 30, 2021.
MPP Glover is calling on Doug Ford to recognize that Ontario students need a similar pause to help them get through the pandemic.
Sebastien Lalonde, Chairperson, Canadian Federation of Students – Ontario:
“Introducing a moratorium on student debt payments means that students and recent graduates have a better chance to make it through the pandemic. Everyday students are deeply concerned about having to repay OSAP student debt payments at a time when our province and economy are in turmoil. We need to make sure that students are not forced to choose between housing or making OSAP payments."
Tori Arnett, President, College Student Alliance:
“The current students and recent graduates of Ontario are the future of the economy. We will be the ones responsible for helping rebuild Ontario when the COVID-19 pandemic is over. We need help to survive this most trying time, we can’t do it on our own. Our families won’t be able to make it through this without the provincial government’s help.”
Brandon Rhéal Amyot, Constituency Commissioner Representative, Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario, organizer with the Don’t Forget Students campaign:
"Students and recent graduates shared their concerns about paying high-tuition fees during a pandemic as well as their limited access to healthcare, housing, food and income security. While the Ontario government is willing to help out big businesses in the province, students are struggling daily to make ends meet."
Julia Pereira, President, Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance:
"Students and recent graduates continue to express concerns about their ability to repay OSAP during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the previous moratorium offered some relief, unemployment rates remain high, making it difficult for borrowers to afford loan payments while also covering educational costs, rent, and other living expenses."