Money Talks: Read this to keep your OSAP eligibility intact!
One semester has come to an end, and another is about to begin. This is the time of year when, as a student, you’re analyzing your grades, your courses, where you’ve been, where you’re going and how it will impact your academic future. It’s also the time when you make decisions about the layout of the rest of your education, including your course load. But you have to be sure that your financial future is secure too, especially if you’re a student on Ontario Student Assistance (OSAP.)
At this point, you already know about the academic requirements to stay in your program, but you probably don’t know that OSAP has its own set of academic requirements. If you’re on OSAP, these requirements were outlined in the Master Student Financial Aid Agreement you signed. But seven pages of fine print isn’t exactly easy reading, so I’ll try to break down what you need to know here. Particularly, you need to be careful when it comes to making changes to courses and your course load, since they can affect your OSAP eligibility.
The 60% Factor
Simply put, you need to pass 60% of your program’s full-time course load hours in order to keep receiving your current level of OSAP (or 40 percent if you’re registered with the Centre for Students with Disabilities). Where it gets complicated is when you aren’t taking a full course load, or decide to drop courses. To keep receiving OSAP, you still need to pass 60% of your program’s full course load’s maximum hours, even if you’re not taking that full load. The common error that gets made is assuming you only have to pass 60% of the courses you've taken. But since it’s based on each course’s total numbers of hours, which are different for each course, they are weighted differently. That 60% (or 40%) of the maximum hours assigned to your semester of study is important for OSAP eligibility.
The idea is that you want to avoid going on OSAP Probation, which puts your OSAP in jeopardy. It also puts you at risk of OSAP Restriction, which results in you being OSAP ineligible for one full academic year. The good news is that 60% is averaged over the course of one academic year (September to August). You’re probably taking two semesters of classes, or even three if you’re doing summer classes, giving you room to get that 60%. For example, if your first semester isn’t so successful, you will have an opportunity to ‘pull up your socks’ over the second and even third semester. The average of your grades from all semesters that year will be considered and the 60% (40%) passing requirement will be averaged from that.
You don’t have to be. Just remember this: In order to make sure your OSAP isn’t in danger, it’s important to speak to Student Financial Services before dropping or deferring a course, or making any changes to your course load. When you’re not doing well at a course, teachers may give you academic advice that involves dropping a course. While it may be sound advice, they may not know your financial situation, if you’re on OSAP and the financial implications of dropping that course. It is up to you to go to Financial Services, tell them you’re planning on dropping a course, and get informed about what that will do to your OSAP standing. Centennial’s Student Financial Services staff are very knowledgeable, and can guide you in what you need to do to remain OSAP eligible.
By Anthony Geremia, with contributions from Scherry George