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Streamlining OSAP: Making tuition and financial aid info easier to process for students

(photo by iStock)

From tuition and financial aid to fees and incidental costs, many students struggle to figure out the actual cost of university.

An online statement will make the process easier for University of Toronto students who will soon be able to see the net cost of tuition and fees, including the amount they may owe to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) – all in one place.

Starting in July, students will have access to a simple snapshot of their net cost of tuition and fees in ACORN. 

“This statement gives students easy access to their OSAP aid amounts,” says Farah Ally, project manager with Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration (EASI). “It helps them know how much government financial aid they are eligible for before they register, and it gives them a comprehensive picture of the actual cost of their education before the start of the school year.”

The changes were mandated by Ontario’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, and EASI is partnering with Enrolment Services and others across the university to bring them into reality.

“Making these changes has truly taken a team effort. They don’t just affect OSAP administration, they affect business processes within Enrolment Services, Student Accounts, EASI, and the academic divisions,” says Donna Wall, director of financial aid and awards at Enrolment Services. “It was important to have expertise at the table from all of these areas.”

Wall also participates in a Council of Universities working group, which advises on this and other sector-wide issues.

As part of the changes, U of T and all other Ontario postsecondary institutions will directly receive students’ OSAP funds to apply against student tuition and other fees. This streamlined process will save students the extra step of paying their U of T fees after receiving their OSAP funding.

To make sure the changes are effective, EASI interviewed and conducted tests with students.

“We went through several rounds of testing with students to design something that works well,” says Laura Klamot, a user experience designer with EASI. “It’s an iterative process – we keep simplifying and refining the design to make sure we communicate the clearest possible information to students.”

Ibraheem Aziz, a third-year Rotman Commerce student, says the changes will make the process easier.

“When I receive OSAP it can be difficult to get a realistic estimate about the cost of attending university,” he says. “It will save so much time to see all the information in one location at the same time.”

Ally agrees.

“We want students to be focused on their academic studies, and anything we can do to make financial planning easier for them is a priority for us. This is an exciting initiative that will help to provide clarity and transparency about the out-of-pocket cost of tuition.”