3.8 Post-secondary students
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Sections 7(1), (2), (3) and 13(1) and (2) of the Act.
Sections 9, 13, 15, 39 and 54(1) of Regulation 134/98.
Documentation is on file to support the decisions made.
Written verification of loans, grants, bursaries and awards, indicating the amount received for education and living costs, is on file.
An Agreement to reimburse form is completed and on file for participants receiving assistance pending receipt of a student loan.
Application of policy
The obligation to pursue resources requires all applicants and participants attending, or planning to attend, a certified post-secondary educational institution full-time to make reasonable efforts to access available resources, including funding under the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) under the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act (MTCU Act) and/or the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act (CSFA Act) as a condition of eligibility for assistance.
Status Indians and Inuit students who are attending, or planning to attend, a certified post-secondary educational institution full-time must also apply for financial assistance for education through Indigenous Services Canada (ISC). ISC provides financial support to eligible Status Indians and Inuit students under broad authorities of the Department of Indigenous Services Act to continue their education. Funding for individuals is available through two programs: the Post-Secondary Student Support Program and the University College Entrance Preparation Program.
First Nation Ontario Works Administrators may use their discretion as appropriate to reflect the priorities of their First Nation.
Definition of full-time attendance
An applicant or participant is considered to be a full-time student where he/she:
- is enrolled, or is qualified to enrol, in at least 60% of a full course load at a designated post-secondary educational institution (a student with a permanent disability may enrol in 40% of a full course load)
- is enrolled, or is qualified to enrol, in a program leading to a degree, diploma or certificate of at least 12 weeks in length over a period of 15 consecutive weeks
Definition of part-time attendance
An applicant or participant is considered to be a part-time student if he/she is taking 20% to 59% of a full course load. A person with a permanent disability is considered to be a part-time student if he/she is taking 20% to 39% of a full course load.
Earnings of post-secondary students
The earnings of, and amounts paid under a training program to, persons attending full-time post-secondary school are exempt as income and assets, subject to certain conditions (see Directive 5.3: Earnings exemptions and Directive 4.1: Summary of assets for more information).
Eligibility for assistance
A single applicant or participant who is in full-time attendance at a certified post-secondary educational institution is not eligible for assistance if he/she:
- is in receipt of a loan under the MTCU Act or the CSFA Act
- is not eligible for a loan under those Acts because of his/her parent’s income level or because he/she defaulted on the payment of a previous loan under those Acts
A sole support parent or member of a family benefit unit may be eligible for assistance if the amount of financial support received through the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) or Canada Student Loans (CSL) for personal living costs does not exceed his/her budgetary requirements. In these situations, Ontario Works will provide a top-up to cover the difference between the personal living costs amount and his/her budgetary requirements as long as all other eligibility requirements are met.
Student loans, grants, bursaries and awards provided under OSAP to dependent adults (who are not spouses included in the benefit unit) or dependent children and part-time students are exempt as income. They are exempt as assets if the dependent or part-time student remains in attendance in the program of study or training for which they are intended. Many post-secondary institutions in Ontario have internal student-aid emergency funds for students whose loans are delayed. Post-secondary students awaiting receipt of their student loans must access student-aid funds available through the institution prior to applying for Ontario Works. If his/her student loan has not been issued once classes have started, and no student-aid is available, he/she may apply, or remain eligible, for assistance pending receipt of the loan, and as long as all other eligibility requirements are met.
Applicants and participants should provide a copy of their student loan assessment(s) and/or any other documentation in order for staff to determine full or part-time attendance and the amount of assistance to be issued as a top-up or while pending receipt of the student loan. 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
In order for assistance to be issued to an individual awaiting receipt of a student loan, the applicant or participant must sign an Agreement to Reimburse, indicating his/her responsibility to repay the assistance issued once he/she is in receipt of the student loan. An Assignment and Direction form is not to be used in these situations. In determining the amount of repayment, the Administrators can only request reimbursement of assistance issued during the study period.
An applicant or participant must be advised that an overpayment recovery will be administered if he/she does not honour the agreement to reimburse the assistance issued (see Directive 9.3: Recovery of overpayments for more information).
Receipt of a student loan by a caregiver who receives Temporary care assistance (TCA) on behalf of a child does not impact eligibility for TCA (see Directive 3.10 Temporary care assistance for more information).
Part-time and full-time attendance at a post-secondary educational or training program can be approved by the Administrator as an employment assistance activity.
The Ministry of Colleges and Universities’ (MCU) Micro-credentials Strategy provides short-duration training opportunities to prepare Ontarians for the labour market. Micro-credential participants may receive OSAP funding, including a $5 per training-hour allowance for educational costs.
Micro-credential programs are not considered full-time postsecondary education programs for social assistance purposes.
Participation in MCU-recognized Micro-credentials programs should not impact eligibility for Ontario Works or the amount of social assistance for which a person is eligible.
All OSAP funding for Micro-credentials programs is intended for educational expenses, and therefore exempt as income and assets for Ontario Works.
In the event an Ontario Works applicant/recipient receives OSAP for Micro-credentials in addition to OSAP for a regular full or part-time postsecondary education program, the portion for Micro-credentials is exempt, and the portion for the regular full or part-time program is treated as set out elsewhere in this directive.
Loans, grants, bursaries and awards received under the MTCU Act and CSFA Act for direct educational expenses (i.e., tuition, other compulsory fees, books, instructional supplies, transportation and child care) 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 financial assistance 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) is not intended to reduce the amount of OSAP funding that the student is eligible to receive. For the purposes of social assistance, the Living and Learning Grant is exempt and not included in the calculation of personal living allowance (chargeable income).
A complete list of OSAP loans, grants, bursaries and awards is available at:
In addition, Administrators may exempt the portion of any other loans, grants bursaries and awards that will be applied within a reasonable period to direct educational expenses as income and assets.
Funds provided to dependents, either children or adults (who are not spouses) for direct educational expenses and personal living costs (personal living allowance) are fully exempt as income and assets so long as the dependent remains in attendance in the program of study or training for which the funding is intended.
If a dependent adult or child is attending full-time post-secondary education away from the parental home, they are considered to be residing in the parental home until the completion of their studies and full assistance on behalf of the dependent is to be maintained in the parental benefit unit.
Funds received by a recipient or spouse for personal living costs (personal living allowance) are not exempt as income or assets. Funds provided for child care, transportation and travel are not considered personal living costs. However, any amounts provided for these purposes are not to be duplicated by Ontario Works. Staff need to consider these amounts prior to issuing related benefits and when calculating child care deductions.
The OSAP Assessment Summary is used to calculate the chargeable income. For the purposes of social assistance, the personal living allowance is equal to the total funding (loans/grants/bursaries/awards) minus educational expenses.
Actual education costs for the purposes of Ontario Works funding entitlement may go beyond what is recorded on the student’s OSAP Assessment Summary. In these cases, the actual amount paid by the client to cover costs related to tuition fees, books and equipment, local travel and child care may be used to calculate the personal living allowance (chargeable income). Clients should provide verification of actual costs.
Total OSAP loans/grants/bursaries/awards - OSAP Allowable Educational Costs OR actual education costs = personal living allowance (chargeable income)
Grant = $3,500
Loan = $6,500
Total funding = $10,000
Actual education costs = $5,000
Calculation of Personal Living Allowance for the purpose of Ontario Works:
$10,000 - $5,000 = $5,000 (chargeable income)
Information resources for students
There are a range of financial supports that may be available to help students with the costs of post-secondary education, as well as correspondence courses, make-up years (i.e., a program of study that must be completed as prerequisite for admission to a graduate program), cooperative programs and private vocational programs.
In addition, individuals who are experiencing difficulty repaying their student loans may be eligible for interest relief programs for Ontario Student Loans and/or Canada Student Loans.
Ontario Works staff should be familiar with the information resources available to students regarding their post-secondary education and provide referrals where appropriate.
Detailed information about eligibility for loans and other financial supports available through the provincial and federal governments is available at the following websites:
- OSAP: Ontario Student Assistance Program | ontario.ca
- Employment and Social Development Canada - Canada.ca
- Indigenous Services Canada - Canada.ca
Students who quit school or become part-time students
If a post-secondary student quits school, all retained proceeds from a student loan, grant, bursary or award are considered income and assets, and loan amounts provided for personal living costs are averaged over the intended study period.
If a post-secondary student changes to a part-time study program, any portion of a student loan provided for personal living costs that has been paid to and retained by the student is considered income and assets and averaged over the intended study period. In these situations, staff must also review the part-time study plan. Depending on the time commitment involved, it may be appropriate for the student to participate in additional employment assistance activities.