The Ontario government announced some details about its new travel grants for post-secondary students from rural or northern communities, which were announced recently with the provincial budget. But from the government is saying so far, I’m undecided on whether the grants are good policy or just politics.
The grants will be worth $300 per year to “help [students] return home for visits with family. ” Students who live at home and commute regularly will receive $1000 per year. Students must live 80 kilometres from a college or university to qualify.
Students will be able to apply for the grant this year and the program begins in September.
I find it interesting that the government is giving $1000 for the school year to students living at home and only $300 for those living away from home. The statement that the $300 will help students to afford to travel back and forth to visit their family makes me question the government’s thinking. The cost of a one-way trip from some northern communities to major Ontario universities in the south will approach or, in some cases, exceed $300.
Students who do not have the option of commuting to school must bare the cost of accommodation expenses. If anything, they need more support than a student living at home.
I’m still awaiting more details on the implementation of these grants. Will the grant apply for students in Northwestern Ontario who attend the closest university to their communities, which in many cases is the University of Manitoba? How will they check if a student is actually commuting? Will the application be part of the OSAP application? If so, what about students who do not wish to apply for loans or are from higher-income backgrounds? Will they get the grants?
One more thing: I thought the Ontario government was big on the environment. Giving people an incentive to commute instead of assisting them to live within walking/public transit distances of a post-secondary school doesn’t seem to be very environmentally responsible.