By: Meg O’Connell

Algonquin has cancelled the rarely-used Ontario Work Study Program.

The college made the decision after the province removed nine bursaries and grant programs from its budget the Ontario Work Study Program being one of them- to make room for funding of the 30 per cent tuition rebate. Rather than completely cut these programs, the ministry turned over the responsibility of funding, to each individual college and university and their financial aid offices whether to keep running the programs.

Due to Algonquin’s low participation numbers, the college decided to stop participating as of the 2011-2012 school year.

“It [was] very under-utilized,” said Linda Fielding, financial aid officer. “We were lucky if we were having one student a year involved in the program. There were some years where we hadn’t had any students participate at all.”

Some restrictions of the program include earning a maximum of $1,000 a term per student, a condition the College Student Employment Program at Algonquin doesn’t have.

CSEP, the college’s alternative to the Work Study Program, allows students to work up to 24 hours a week during the study period and up to 35 hours during the summer months. There is no salary cap on what a student can earn, making CSEP a more desirable option.

The Ontario Work Study Program was also receiving 75 per cent of the funding from OSAP and the other 25 per cent was required to be provided by the department at the college doing the hiring.

“CSEP requires no funding from the departments and all of the student’s salary comes through CSEP funding, so why would a department not put their emphasis in CSEP, right?” said Fielding. “[Why wouldn’t they] hire through the CSEP program? Students don’t have as strict a limit on the amount of money they can earn and it’s more favourable to both the student as well as to the department.”

According to Fielding, hundreds of students participate in CSEP at the college every year. Students began to self-filter themselves as soon as they looked at what the options were in comparing CSEP and the Work Study Program. Not only did students prefer CSEP, but school departments agreed.

“The terms and conditions of the CSEP programs are much more conducive to the hiring departments than Work Study was. So the department might look at the potential benefits of Work Study and the potential benefits of CSEP and they would choose CSEP every time.

“On many levels this is beneficial to almost everyone,” Fielding said, “The ministry recognized that the Ontario Work Study Program was of extremely limited value to Algonquin because we have such a great CSEP program. They took a look at the figures and the numbers and agreed and gave us permission to not participate.”

The ministry has given the college permission to use the accumulated funds left over from past years of poor enrollment and move it towards other ministry bursary budgets, such as a disability budget to assist OSAP students with funding for disability related services or equipment effective this year.