TORONTO—As thousands of students at colleges and universities across the province are set to graduate with five-figure debts, the Ontario Government is flying into action.
The Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) and Toronto-based company Higher Ed Points will allow students to apply accumulated Aeroplan miles against the balance of their student loan. Student frequent flyers can now redeem their miles in $250 denominations and transfer the funds through www.HigherEdPoints.com to their Ontario Student Assistance Program student loan account.
“The ability to use loyalty points to offset student loans is going to make a huge difference to students and graduates,” says Suzanne Tyson, Founder of Higher Ed Points. “Paying down those loans faster is great for them and the Canadian economy as a whole.”
While Tyson is flying high with news of the announcement, Rajean Hoilett, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario, was less impressed.
“This latest announcement is yet another example of a government that treats Ontario’s student debt crisis like an episode of Extreme Couponing,” he said. “But there is nothing entertaining about the difficult choices today’s students and graduates must face to make ends meet.”
“Students who must take on loans to finance their education in this province graduate with an average of $27,000 of debt to repay,” he added. “Ballooning student debt levels have a significant impact on the financial stability of new graduates entering the labour market, often delaying important life decisions such as opening a business, buying a home or starting a family.”
Hoilett thinks that if Ontario was truly dedicated to ensuring higher education is affordable to all Ontarians, it “wouldn’t turn an entire generation’s economic insecurity into a loyalty program.”
The Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario, the province’s oldest and largest student organization, has consistently called for the government to reinvest in public post-secondary education, to reduce tuition fees for all students and to introduce more needs-based, non-repayable grants to student financial assistance programs.