This October, U of T announced that it had revamped the University of Toronto Advanced Planning for Students (UTAPS) program — the university’s largest financial aid system. The redesign includes requiring students to fill out a form so U of T can independently assess their living costs instead of relying on Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) assessments.
In the university’s announcement, administrators noted that U of T hopes these assessments will provide a more accurate account of what students need and get students more financial aid.
What is UTAPS?
UTAPS aims to cover the financial difference between students’ educational costs and the financial aid provided by provincial or territorial governments. To be eligible for UTAPS, a student must be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or protected person, which refers to someone who would risk safety if removed to their former country of residence; demonstrate unmet financial need; and maintain full-time course loads — a course load of at least 1.5 credits or more per semester — during the fall and winter terms.
UTAPS calculates a student’s financial need based on their education and living costs and the resources the student gets from the government. UTAPS includes any costs associated with getting a university degree — from tuition fees and textbooks to housing and daily essentials — in calculating its education and living costs. The program determines a student’s total financial need by comparing their costs to their total financial aid from government programs like OSAP.
U of T provided $94.6 million in need-based support to U of T students during the 2021–2022 academic year. Of this sum, U of T channelled $36.8 million to students through UTAPS grants. More than 15,500 students received UTAPS grants, with the majority being undergraduates.
A customized approach to financial aid
Historically, the university determined UTAPS grants based on the OSAP need assessment — a financial aid program in Ontario that provides support for students pursuing higher education. OSAP provides grants, which students don’t have to repay, and student loans, which they do. Ontario residents who are Canadian citizens, permanent residents, or protected persons are eligible for OSAP.
The university noted that external factors, such as changes in government policy, can influence OSAP assessments. The OSAP assessment also assumes uniform living allowances across Ontario, although living costs are notably higher in Toronto compared to other parts of the province. For one-bedroom apartments, the average monthly rent in Toronto costs $2,614, while the average monthly asking rent in the province amounts to $2,281 according to Rentals.ca’s October report. U of T notes that these provincial differences mean that OSAP underestimates U of T students’ financial needs.
As part of the program’s extensive redesign, UTAPS has devised its own need assessment measures.
Streamlining the financial aid application process
The UTAPS redesign also aims to streamline the financial aid process. U of T introduced a new Need Navigator tool for students, a singular financial need application for UTAPS and for support from faculties and academic divisions.
To be eligible for UTAPS for the 2023–2024 academic year, all students must fill out an application through the Need Navigator platform and provide any necessary supporting documents indicated in their application. U of T will validate the forms submitted by students before giving out grants.
The application deadline for UTAPS assistance depends on when the application is submitted. Ontarian students enrolled in the fall and winter terms who applied by September 20, 2023 will receive their first payment in early October. Those who submit their application right before February 14, 2024 — the last day to apply for UTAPS for this school year — will receive their first payment by late February 2024.
Donna Wall, director of financial aid and awards, announced that students can expect more updates to UTAPS in the coming years, including tools to support students and their families’ financial planning.