Concept art for Pan-Am facilities. PHOTO COURTESY OF PAN AM

Students will have an opportunity to take a break from their OSAP payments, thanks to the upcoming Pan Am Games in Toronto. On January 14, the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities announced a variety of benefits for students receiving loans from OSAP who volunteer at the 2015 Games.

New graduates who volunteer at the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games will be able to apply for deferred payment of their OSAP loans until one full year after graduation ­— six months after the usual period before interest is charged. The province is introducing this initiative in lieu of paying wages to volunteers.

Similarly, students who will begin or continue to attend university after volunteering will be able to waive their pre-study contribution for the subsequent semester. Normally, students who receive loans from OSAP are required to work for up to 16 weeks before the beginning of their studies. The money they make is then accounted for when determining their financial need. If an individual is enrolled as a full-time student between August 1, 2015 and July 31, 2016, completing a volunteer assignment at the Pan Am games will allow her to waive those earnings from her financial need assessment, theoretically resulting in a bigger loan.

“We want to encourage as many students as possible to participate in the games and volunteer for the games,” said minister Brad Duguid. According to Duguid: “It’s going to be a great, once-in-a-lifetime experience for this generation,” Duguid added, stating that the last time an event of this scope and magnitude was held in Ontario was in the 1930s.

“I feel like I don’t do a lot of extra-curricular activities because I don’t have time to do them. I need to be working to pay back the money I owe. So this is definitely a good opportunity,” Cristina McCoy, a first-year student on OSAP, who is planning to benefit from this initiative. The province estimates that the Games will require 20,000 volunteers.

The requirements for receiving the “OSAP break” are demanding and expect students to dedicate a significant amount of their time to volunteering. Duguid said that students should expect to be working almost full time, contributing 12 shifts out of the possible 18 during the Pan Am Games and six shifts out of eight for the Parapan Am events.

There was no mention of whether or not students who did not qualify for OSAP would receive any similar benefits for volunteering their time; however, both summer employment and internship opportunities are also available for anyone who wishes to contribute in another fashion to the event.

The Pan Am and Parapan Am Games will be held in July and August of 2015 in multiple venues across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), including at a number of facilities on U of T’s campuses.

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