Extra Funding For OSAP Students In Special Circumstances

Extra Funding For OSAP Students In Special Circumstances

Written by Corrina Murdoch
Fact-checked by Caitlin Wood
Last Updated November 9, 2021

A program meant to offer financial aid to students, the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) works through grants and student loans. Students in this province can use this resource as funding for any accredited post-secondary institution. However, for many, there are barriers to these resources. Therefore, on a situational basis, individuals who fall into certain categories can access additional funding. The extra amounts available are meant to bridge accessibility gaps and help more people access higher education.

Indigenous Students 

In order to accommodate those pursuing post-secondary in this province, there are bursaries and grants made available to Indigenous students. To qualify, the school must be either a publicly-assisted university or college. This means that the Government of Ontario has accredited that institution and that, in some manner, the University or College is subsidized by the province. 

Another approach is the institution being approved by the Indigenous Institute in Ontario. In the province, there are nine of these institutes, with regulations set forth by the Indigenous Institutes Act, 2017. The regulation grants permission for said Institutes to create independent post-secondary programs, including degrees, diplomas, certificates, and apprenticeships. Many of these programs also offer Indigenous language education programs. It also provides access to education of all levels such as upgrading, literacy, and numeracy.  

Both of these credentialing approaches enable access to the services offered by Ontario, including payments for travel, accommodations, and tuition. 

Indigenous Student Bursary

The program extends to those meeting self-identification as an Indigenous person along with Ontario residency regulations. Financial need must be set forth according to tuition and living costs through your school. Because it is a situationally assessed program, the bursary can differ according to the institution attended and the financial situation of the student. Ranging from $1,000 to $3,500, this is issued as a grant which you do not need to repay. 

Ontario Indigenous Travel Grant

Meant to assist with the travel cost of transit between the post-secondary institution and remotely-located First Nations residences. The grant accommodates both air travel and other modes of transportation. The cap of $1,300 applies to four one-way trips per school year for plane travel. Private vehicles are reimbursed at $0.41 per kilometer, while trips via train or bus cap at $75 per trip. 

To qualify, you must live in a remote First Nations area when you aren’t attending school. This means that, per the Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, you reside in either Zone 3 or 4. Within these mapped zones, there are further restrictions on where the grants apply. The eligibility surrounds real access to viable transportation; so, if the area is near a major highway, it is classed much differently than an area using tertiary roads. 

The basis of this grant surrounds accessibility, with the extra funding meant to prevent transportation from being a barrier to education. According to the Government of Ontario Transportation Department, Northern Ontario contains 90 percent of the province’s land and has around 800,000 residents. However, due to extreme weather and a lack of infrastructure, many remote areas lack reasonable transportation. While there are projects under assessment, the current approach is to fund the student, accounting for the massive difference in price relative to attending school from an urban home-base. 

Post-Secondary Student Support Program

While this is not technically a matter handled by the OSAP, it does represent available funding to First Nations’ individuals. Run through the federal government, for eligible Inuit and Indigenous students who are participating in accredited post secondary studies, there is extra funding available. 

As of 2017, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada was replaced by two separate governing bodies. The first is the Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada and the second is Indigenous Services Canada. The latter is the system dealing with education, coordinating with the individual’s Band Office. Specifics vary by the nation and the treaty under which it falls, thus the structure and the amount of support differs. For more details, contact your Band Office directly. 

Métis Student Bursary Program

This funding is issued through the Metis Nation of Ontario. It is meant for Metis students who are participating in a post-secondary program at an accredited institution. You can access this service through student support at your Ontario school. Alternative ways to approach the program include contacting Financial Aid directly. Bursaries are funds which do not need to be repaid. In most situations, they are meant to bridge financial gaps, so having both a strong GPA and financial need helps in access. Keep your transcripts and financial documents to assist in the process. 

Find out what happens to your student bank account when you graduate.

Crown Wards: Children Aging Out Of The System

This category extends to those who were in care before reaching the age of majority. It also covers those who are between the ages of 21 and 24, having left the Children’s Aid Society. When children are under the care of social services in Ontario, this benefit is available when the individual pursues schooling. The grant offers extra funds, above and beyond the cap from OSAP aid. It also can supply a Living and Learning Grant. 

There are additional programs available for those who were in child welfare, yet were unaware of the service. You can apply for a retroactive refund for either your application fee or for the cost of previous academic years. Another approach to bridging financial gaps in the system, it assists those who age out of care in accessing education. Overlap may occur between the grants offered, since 30% of foster children in Ontario are of Indigenous ancestry. 

Need help paying off your student loan? Try applying for the student loan repayment assistance program.

Students With Disabilities

Those who suffer from permanent disabilities, provided the individual meets certain criteria, are eligible for full-time funding. The student must have at least a 40 percent course load. Additionally, the individual must self-identify as having a disability, meaning no medical paperwork is required, though it could be requested. There is extra assistance to cover costs specific to those with disabilities. By filing a single application, you apply to:

  • Bursary for Students with Disabilities: Up to $2,000 per academic year, this is meant for those with either a temporary or permanent disability. You must have declared financial need according to OSAP guidelines, be a recipient of a grant, or a recipient of an institution-funded grant to qualify.
  • Canada Student Grant for Services and Equipment for Students with Permanent Disabilities: This extends to a maximum funding, per year, of $20,000. Designed to facilitate access to education through specialized equipment or personnel, the specific amount relates directly to the disability and the cost to accommodate it. 

Can You Apply For OSAP If You’re On ODSP?

Yes, if you access financial support via the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), you remain eligible for the OSAP program. In fact, the student can continue receiving ODSP payments to assist with the cost of living while still receiving OSAP. Since ODSP payments are exempt from the financial criteria used to assess bursaries and grants, there is no issue getting both services concurrently. 

Students On Social Assistance

The Ontario Works program offers financial support for students pursuing post-secondary education. This program exempts any income the student earns while enrolled in post-secondary, provided it is a full-time course load. Unlike some of the other special circumstances accommodations, there are more eligibility requirements. 

If you are a single individual who is currently a full-time student receiving OSAP funding, you are ineligible. However, if you are either married or a single-support parent, you can access additional funding to accommodate living costs. Even if you are getting funds through the OSAP for the cost of living, the Ontario Works program can add to the amount. In order to apply for this service, go directly through the caseworker. 

Reasons For Special-Circumstances Funding

There are many circumstances beyond the control of the student pursuing post-secondary. The three key barriers addressed by the extenuating circumstances component of OSAP are: disability, First Nations access, and government-regulated welfare programs. Each of these categories is vulnerable to specific barriers to higher education. The programs here are designed to address this differential. Extenuating circumstances can range from intergenerational barriers to funding to disabilities barring you from funding the excursion. 

Historically, those funded by these OSAP programs have been drastically under-represented in post-secondary institutions. The best way to address that differential is to ensure that those who are eligible for these programs are aware and able to apply. Whether it is a matter of transportation from remote and hard-to-access zones or about getting out of a social-assistance cycle, these programs lend ample assistance. 

Final Thoughts 

According to the most recent Census data, while there remain substantial gaps in salary along gender lines, those with post-secondary education almost always lead to increased income. The exception is women graduating from an apprenticeship. In every other situation, higher learning leads to higher earnings. Extra funding for OSAP students in special circumstances assists those who would otherwise be unable to access post-secondary education. It also assists in limiting debt after graduation. If you are eligible for any of the extenuating circumstances programs, applying can make a massive difference in your financial future. 

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Corrina Murdoch has been a dedicated freelance writer and editor for several years. With an academic background in the sciences and a penchant for mathematics, she seeks to provide readers with accurate, reliable information on important topics. Working as a print journalist for several years, Corrina expanded her reach into the digital sphere to help more people gain insight into the realm of finances. When she's not writing, you can find Corrina swimming and spending time with family.

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