The Doug Ford provincial government’s Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) cuts have made the leap from high school to post-secondary too high for a lot of students.
At Kingston’s Loyalist Collegiate and Vocational Institute, some students are too dispirited to even apply for post-secondary education, according to guidance counsellor Martha Read-Gray.
“Something I’ve noticed in particular over the last five years is an alarming number of students who don’t even want to apply for post-secondary training because they can’t afford the application, or they just can’t see themselves being able to pay for the post-secondary schooling,” she said.
Read-Gray, who helps students apply for OSAP, said she’s seen students in her office become dismayed after finding their funding estimates for the upcoming school year won’t be enough.
“They get very worried and upset,” she said. “The impact on students’ mental health is huge when there’s nothing to look forward to, there’s nowhere to go, and they don’t feel that they can reach for these things. It chisels away at their confidence, their self-esteem.”
In the past, LCVI has spent $15,000 annually to assist students with application fees, residence deposits, and funds for laptops and school supplies.
The increasing need for financial support has placed extra strain on institution’s ability to help, Read-Gray said, and by January this year, the money was already gone.
“We were looking ahead to tuition deposits and I just didn’t know where the money was going to come from,” she said.
Drawing on the Lancers’ school motto of “Grit, Growth and Gratitude,” Read-Gray came up with the idea of appealing to alumni for support through a “gratitude” project.
Launched in April, the school was able to raise around $5,000 by June, but those funds were soon depleted after paying for 10 residence deposits averaging $500 each.
As support from the province depleted, however, LCVI’s own students stepped up.
The school cafeteria is student-run through a cooking internship led by recently retired Doug James, who returned last year’s $10,000 in profits to the post-secondary trust fund.
“It was so heartwarming because, really, our own kids have given to their own school project,” Read-Gray said.
But with another round of post-secondary applications coming up in the fall, it’s still not enough.
“We are definitely in need,” she said. “Be really keenly aware of what’s going on, even if you don’t have students in education now, because this is shaping how things are going to go in the future. These cuts are dangerous.”
Saving for post-secondary education, Read-Gray stressed, is not a reality for many students.
“A number of our students have part-time jobs and that money goes directly into the running of their own households,” she said. “This is a statement of the times.”
Still short $5,000, Read-Gray said the school needs to help its students.
“They’re our next generation,” she said. “We owe it to them. It’s our responsibility to keep things going.”
Read-Gray said LCVI’s purpose is to “launch students into the next level of education,” but a “number of students are being channeled into the world of work without a choice.”
“Really, we wanted everyone to have a choice.”
Donations can be made by cheque or online at chimp.net/groups/lcvi-lancer-gratitude-project-for-the-post-secondary-charitable-trust-fund.