College and university students in Ontario will get more financial aid and more flexibility on loan repayment options as the province moves to increase new post-secondary spaces this fall.

The changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program include 1,000 new graduate scholarships, a new grant for part-time students and additional support for married students or those with children.

The Ontario Student Opportunity Grant threshold, which caps annual student debt, will increase to $7,300 from $7,000 for a two-term academic year, the first increase in 12 years.

Students will also be allowed to keep more of the money they earn from part-time jobs and will get a no-interest period on student loans for six months after graduation.

The changes, which provide details of an $81-million plan promised in the fall economic statement, will improve assistance for about 188,000 students.

The tuition fee framework is also being extended for two more years, limiting tuition fee increases to an average of five-per-cent annually.

The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, which represents more than 140,000 university students, welcomed the move, calling it a “huge step forward for students relying on government aid to access higher education.”

The alliance says the changes mean the weekly loan limits will increase to $150 from $140 per week.

They also tie the maximum assessment for textbook and supplies costs to the rate of inflation.
“The sustained regulation of tuition fees is promising, however, students in Ontario continue to pay the highest fees in the country,” said OUSA executive director Alexi White.

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