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The Explainer: U of T financial assistance options

What resources are available if OSAP and UTAPS are not enough?
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FLORENCE TANG/THE VARSITY
FLORENCE TANG/THE VARSITY

In these uncertain times, budgets can fall through and sometimes savings are not enough to cover unexpected expenses. In these circumstances, students should be aware of the financial resources available to them as members of the U of T community.

The basics

When budgeting for a school year, every Ontario-based student should apply to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP). A single OSAP application covers both provincial and federal student assistance programs, allowing applicants to manage all of their government educational assistance funds from one portal.

In addition to hopefully covering the majority of one’s scholastic overhead, an OSAP application automatically makes one considered for University of Toronto Advanced Planning for Students (UTAPS) assistance — the university’s financial aid program for when OSAP is not sufficient. Non-Ontarian students can apply for UTAPS through a special out-of-province application form.

Colleges, faculties, and campuses

Each college, satellite campus, and professional faculty has specific financial aid resources availed to affiliated students. Additionally, many of these resources are grants or bursaries instead of loans, meaning that the money will not have to be paid back later.

Every division has its own application process, so you can visit your specific institution’s website for relevant information. With the fall semester winding down and the winter semester just around the corner, many funds are now open for another wave of applications. Many registrar offices also offer financial advice, so booking an appointment with your registrar to discuss your financial situation could be a good idea.

The University of Toronto Students’ Union

The University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) offers a large variety of grants, bursaries, and financial assistance options for students across a range of qualifications. Individual options include the Transit Bursary — intended to cover the cost of a PRESTO card — and the Health and Wellness Bursary — intended to cover costs of additional health-related resources that are not included in the UTSU’s Health and Dental Plan.

Beyond the targeted options, the UTSU also offers an Emergency Bursary for general situations when students find themselves in financial hardship. Students can apply for all UTSU financial assistance programs via the application form on the UTSU website.

U of T emergency grants

While the university generally intends for UTAPS to cover any academic costs that OSAP does not, U of T also has recourse available for mid-academic-year emergencies. Whereas OSAP and UTAPS eligibility is generally determined at the beginning of each semester, U of T Emergency Assistance Grants are evaluated on a rolling basis in response to unexpected situations.

This year, the university has expanded the program to include COVID-19 Emergency Undergraduate Grants to subsidize students expenses directly related to the pandemic. Applications for this COVID-19-related grant and standard emergency grants are evaluated through the same portal.

Lines of credit

If all else fails, many Canadian banks have lines of credit specifically offered to university students. A line of credit is a ‘middle ground’ between credit cards and loans, where a borrower is authorized to borrow up to a large amount — typically several tens of thousands of dollars — but only pays interest on the portion of the credit they are currently using.

Specific terms and conditions depend on the financial institution and can also depend on what you’re studying. For example, TD Canada Trust offers a $20,000 per year line of credit to undergraduate students — for a maximum of $80,000 over four years of study — while also offering medical students a $325,000 line of credit during their period of study and eventual residency.