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5.11 — Post-secondary education

December 2021

Summary of policy

The portion of a personal loan, student or trainee grant or award approved by the Director for training or post-secondary education costs is exempt as income and assets, so long as the person is attending or will be attending the program or training for which the loan was taken or the payment was intended.

A loan received from the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) or Canada Student Loan Program (CSLP), or an award or grant made to a student enrolled in a post-secondary school which is used for "education costs") is exempt as income under the ODSP.

A dependent adult in full-time attendance at a post-secondary school is required to apply for an OSAP and Canada Student Loan.

An OSAP or Canada Student Loan, award or grant which is provided to a part-time student, a dependent child or dependent adult (residing in the parental home or away from the parental home in order to attend school) who is not a spouse included in the benefit unit is exempt as income.

All funds received from the Ministry of Colleges and Universities (MCU) under the Micro-credentials program are exempt as income and assets as long as they are used for the purpose intended.

A Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) held by an applicant/recipient for a beneficiary related by blood, marriage or adoption is exempt as an asset. Payments from an RESP, intended and used for education costs, received by a recipient or any other member of a benefit unit, are exempt as income.

Legislative authority

Sections 2(2)b; 11(2)(b); 28(1)12, 26; 42(6), (7), (11); 43(1)1.v, vi, 2, 2.1, 7, 9.1, 13, 15, 15.1, 15.2, and 15.3 of the ODSP Regulation

Summary of directive

This directive describes eligibility requirements for ODSP income support recipients upon receipt of student loans, grants, awards, bursaries, or RESP-related payments for post-secondary education or training.

Intent of policy

To encourage a member of the ODSP benefit unit to complete or further their education or training by exempting certain funds and payments as income and assets while the person attends post-secondary education or training.

Application of policy

Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP)

OSAP is available to persons who require financial assistance to participate in post-secondary education. This assistance is provided in the form of student loans, grants, bursaries or awards for educational and living expenses.

OSAP consists of two main components:

OSAP allowable education costs

OSAP provides funding for allowable education costs up to a maximum amount. OSAP allowable education costs for the purposes of ODSP include tuition and compulsory fees; books and instructional supplies; education expenses related to the person’s disability; funds for transportation; and, where applicable, funds for child care.

Non-educational funding (personal living allowances)

OSAP may also provide an amount that is intended to cover the costs of shelter, food, amounts for dependent children, and miscellaneous expenses.

OSAP assessment for ODSP applicants/recipients or spouses

When applying for a student loan, an ODSP recipient must identify on the OSAP application that they (or their spouse) will be an ODSP recipient during the study period and/or pre-study period and, their family’s estimated income from ODSP during the study period. The amount of ODSP is used by OSAP solely for income verification purposes and does not impact the amount of OSAP the ODSP recipient is eligible to receive.

OSAP is assessed based on a student’s actual educational costs, child care costs, if any, and local travel expenses. Recipients attending post-secondary school can continue to receive funds from ODSP to help with their living costs. Therefore, OSAP does not automatically assess ODSP recipients for non-educational funding and living costs are not generally included in the OSAP assessment. As a result, in most cases, the OSAP Assessment Summary will not show any non-educational funding.

However, in some cases, the OSAP Assessment Summary will show an amount of OSAP funding that is more than the student’s education costs. This is because some Canada Student Grants are provided as a flat-rate amount and in some cases may exceed the student’s direct educational costs.

Since these are flat-rate grants, MTCU must issue the full amount of the grant and students cannot decline a portion of this grant. If the student has even $1 of eligibility they are issued the full flat-rate grant.

Eligibility for ODSP

OSAP Assessment Summary forms are produced for all full-time OSAP applicants who indicate on their OSAP applications that they, their spouse, or their parents are in receipt of Ontario Works or ODSP.

  • Upon receipt of a student loan, a person receiving income support must provide a copy of their student loan assessment and/or any other documentation to ODSP staff so that ongoing eligibility may be determined.
  • Documentation includes, but is not limited to:
    • OSAP Assessment Summary
    • OSAP Notice of Assessment/Reassessment
    • Official letters/notices from the provincial government, the federal government or an educational institution communicating information about a student loan grant, bursary or award a student has been assessed to receive

A copy of the OSAP Assessment Summary form and any other relevant documentation should be retained on the recipient’s file.

Treatment of OSAP loans, grants, bursaries and awards for ODSP applicants/recipients or spouses

Loans, grants, bursaries and awards received under the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities Act (MTCU Act) and/or the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act (CSFA Act) for direct educational expenses (i.e., tuition, other compulsory fees, books, instructional supplies transportation, childcare, and disability-related educational services and equipment) are exempt as income and assets so long as the participant remains in attendance in the program of study or training for which the funding is intended.

Grants, bursaries, and awards that should not impact a person’s income support are excluded from the OSAP Total Funding amount and are not included elsewhere on the OSAP Assessment Summary. For example:

  • The Living and Learning Grant for individuals currently or formerly in Extended Society Care (previously known as Crown Wards). These funds are not intended to reduce the amount of OSAP funding that the student is eligible to receive. These are additional payments from OSAP for these students and are fully exempt under ODSP.
  • Grants, bursaries and awards that are intended to help with the costs of the student’s disability-related educational services and equipment (e.g., Bursary for Students with Disabilities, Canada Student Grant for Services and Equipment for Persons with Permanent Disabilities).

A complete list of OSAP loans, grants, bursaries and awards is available at: https://osap.gov.on.ca/OSAPPortal/en/A-ZListofAid/index.htm

In addition, the portion of any other loans, grants bursaries and awards that will be applied within a reasonable period to direct educational expenses may be exempt as income and assets.

Although most ODSP recipients/spouses will not receive funds for personal living costs (i.e., a personal living allowance), for the small number that do, these funds are not exempt as income or assets.

Calculating assistance

The OSAP Assessment Summary is used to calculate the chargeable income. In the majority of cases where the OSAP Assessment Summary shows that only funds for OSAP Allowable Educational Costs have been issued, no adjustments are required to income support as a result of OSAP funding, and no additional calculation is required by the caseworker. However, the amount of OSAP Allowable Educational Costs is still recorded in the recipient/student’s file.

In cases where the OSAP Assessment Summary shows an amount of OSAP funding that is more than the student’s education costs, the personal living allowance is equal to the total funding minus educational expenses.

If a student’s actual education costs exceed the OSAP Allowable Educational Costs amount recorded on the OSAP Assessment Summary and verification is provided, the actual amount paid by the recipient to cover education expenses may be used.

Formula for calculating assistance:

Total OSAP loans/grants/bursaries/awards − OSAP Allowable Educational Costs OR actual education costs = personal living allowance (chargeable income).

Example:
Grant = $3,500
Loan = $6,500
Total funding = $10,000
Actual education costs = $9,500

Calculation of personal living allowance for the purpose of ODSP:
$10,000 − $9,500 = $500 (chargeable income)

This amount of chargeable income is pro-rated over the course of the study period and deducted from the student’s income support dollar-for-dollar.

Treatment of OSAP loans to dependents (other than spouse) under the ODSP

All OSAP loans provided to dependent adults and dependent children are exempt as income and assets in their entirety.

If the dependent adult or dependent child leaves home to attend school, he/she should not be removed from the benefit unit. This means that any amounts for shelter and basic needs paid with respect to the dependent adult or dependent child are to continue to be paid as part of the parents’ income support.

A dependent adult is required to apply to OSAP for financial assistance if he/she is in full-time attendance at post-secondary school.

Treatment of OSAP loans for part-time study

A person with a disability is considered to be a part time student if they are taking less than 40% of a full course load.Their student loan will only provide for direct school costs and miscellaneous support for the student plus local transportation. Child care costs will be considered within the loan, subject to student loan maximums.

OSAP provides a part-time applicant with a form letter indicating the results of their application. ODSP staff may use this letter to confirm that the student attends on a part-time basis.

Student loans/grants/bursaries and awards for part-time study are exempt as income and assets. OSAP loans for part-time study do not include a component for living expenses.

Treatment of OSAP for micro-credentials program

All funds received under the micro-credentials program are exempt as income and assets if they are used for the purpose intended.

Participation in MCU-recognized micro-credentials programs should not impact ODSP eligibility or the amount of social assistance for which a person is eligible.

Micro-credential programs are not considered full-time post-secondary education programs for social assistance purposes.

Micro-credential participants may receive OSAP funding, including a $5 per training-hour allowance for educational costs.

In the event an ODSP applicant/recipient receives OSAP for micro-credentials in addition to OSAP for a regular full-time or part-time postsecondary education program, the portion for micro-credentials is exempt, and the portion for the regular full-time or part-time program is treated as set out elsewhere in this directive.

Students attending a post-secondary institution out-of-province

An ODSP recipient attending a post-secondary institution out-of-province may remain eligible for income support for the duration of the study period. Prior approval of the absence from Ontario for the purpose of attending a post- secondary institution is required. (Also see Directive 2.4 Absent from Ontario)

Treatment of Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) funds for post-secondary school

A First Nations person is not required to seek OSAP funds to support post-secondary study. If they do however, then the funds are treated as per the policy outlined in this directive. Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) provides funding for post-secondary study for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis persons. These funds can be provided for both direct school costs (tuition, books, and instructional supplies) and child care and personal living costs for the student and their family.

A member of the benefit unit who is provided with ISC funding for personal living costs should be advised that they have the option of declining this funding. If they choose not to accept the personal living funding, recipients must request a reassessment of funding by ISC. There is no impact on a recipient’s income support if he/she declines the personal living funding. If a recipient chooses to accept the personal living funding, it is treated as income under ODSP and deducted dollar-for-dollar from the recipient’s income support on a pro-rated basis for the duration of the study period.

Funds for direct school costs, child care, and transportation are exempt as income for ODSP purposes.

Exemption for personal loans, grants and awards used for education purposes

The portion of a personal loan, student or trainee grant, or award for training or education costs is exempt as income and assets, so long as the person is attending the program or training for which the loan was taken or the payment was intended. In addition, a recipient is required to apply the funds to education costs or training within a reasonable period of time.

Education costs include tuition, other compulsory fees, books, instructional supplies and equipment, transportation, and education expenses related to the person’s disability.

Applicants and recipients will be required to verify the amount of the loan, grant, or award. In addition, verification of the education or training costs paid from the loan, grant, or award will be required.

Exemption for Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs)

The following income and asset exemptions relate to RESPs:

  • RESPs held by any member of the benefit unit for persons related to them by blood, marriage or adoption (e.g., son, daughter, nieced, nephew, grandchild, etc.) are exempt as assets. The person who owns the RESP is known as the subscriber. A beneficiary of an RESP does not own or have control over the RESP.
  • Gifts and voluntary payments received that above the $10,000 annual exemption limit and are paid into such RESPs are exempt as income.
  • Under the Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG), the Federal government matches a certain percentage of a person’s contributions to an RESP. Amounts contributed to an RESP through the CESG are exempt.
  • Interest earned and reinvested in the RESP is exempt as income.
  • Payments from an RESP, intended and used for education costs, received by a recipient or any other member of a benefit unit, are exempt as income. For example, funds received by a dependent adult through an RESP established by a grandparent to pay for post-secondary tuition would be exempt as income. Education costs consist of tuition fees, other compulsory fees, books, instructional supplies and equipment, transportation, and education expenses related to the person’s disability. In addition, a recipient is required to apply the funds to their education costs within a reasonable period of time.

Verification will be required of RESP payments that are used for education costs. Funds withdrawn from an RESP, in any form, and not used for education costs are subject to income and asset rules.

In a family type RESP, the beneficiary can be changed from the originally named person to another relative, (e.g., RESP purchased for son who does not attend post-secondary school can be transferred to a daughter who does). These RESPs continue to be exempt as long as they are intended for and will be used for education costs.

Related directives

2.1 — Dependent adults
2.2 — Dependent children
2.4 — Absent from Ontario
4.1 — Definition and treatment of assets
5.1 — Definition and treatment of income
5.8 — Gifts and voluntary payments
5.9 — Disability related items and services
5.10 — Loans

Updated: March 28, 2022
Published: March 28, 2022