Monday 4 May 1992

Student assistance

Ministry of Colleges and Universities

Bernard Shapiro, deputy minister

Ontario Council of Regents for Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology

Richard Johnston, chair


*Chair / Président: Beer, Charles (York North/-Nord L)

*Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Daigeler, Hans (Nepean L)

Drainville, Dennis (Victoria-Haliburton ND)

*Fawcett, Joan M. (Northumberland L)

*Martin, Tony (Sault Ste Marie ND)

*Mathyssen, Irene (Middlesex ND)

O'Neill, Yvonne (Ottawa-Rideau L)

Owens, Stephen (Scarborough Centre ND)

*White, Drummond (Durham Centre ND)

*Wilson, Gary (Kingston and The Islands/Kingston et Les Îles ND)

Wilson, Jim (Simcoe West/-Ouest PC)

*Witmer, Elizabeth (Waterloo North/-Nord PC)

Substitutions / Membres remplaçants:

*Cunningham, Dianne (London North/-Nord PC) for Mrs Witmer

*Lessard, Wayne (Windsor-Walkerville ND) for Mr Owens

*Poole, Dianne (Eglinton L) for Mrs O'Neill

*in attendance / présents

Clerk / Greffière: Mellor, Lynn

The committee met at 1603 in room 151.


Consideration of the designated matter pursuant to standing order 123, relating to student assistance.

The Chair (Mr Charles Beer): We are going to be considering, under standing order 123, the following motion that was moved by Mrs Fawcett, the MPP for Northumberland. For the benefit of people who are watching on television, I'll just read that motion into the record:

"Impact of the conversion of the Ontario scholarship assistance plan as a loans and grant program to a loans-only program and an examination of alternative student funding strategies such as the Ontario scholars award and the consequences of all possible changes in areas such as accessibility and affordability to post-secondary education and the impact of these changes on economic growth for the time period of 12 hours."

That is what we're beginning today. I wonder if I might ask our first witnesses to come -- yes?

Mr Hans Daigeler (Nepean): Before we do that, could I ask something of the clerk perhaps, and of you as well? I received a letter, and I presume the clerk as well. I don't know whether you, Mr Chairman, got this from Wolf-Dieter Klaus, the chairman of the Ontario Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. He was wondering whether his group could still make a presentation. I saw that we have one financial aid officer actually coming. I wonder whether perhaps they can come together or whether some arrangement already has been made. I think it would be very useful to hear from this group. I wasn't aware that they had an association as such.

The Chair: I would note that from the original list of witnesses that had been put together there are a few who, for one reason or another, are not going to be able to come, so one of the questions I was going to raise with the subcommittee was, are there some other groups, since we've started this process, that are interested in participating so that if the committee wished to we would be able to do that? I haven't seen that letter.

Clerk of the Committee (Ms Lynn Mellor): He's declined. He has made arrangements for May 12. You have the full agenda there to appear with the Association of Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology of Ontario.

The Chair: On May 12.

Clerk of the Committee: May 12 at 3:30. He's making a direct presentation with them.

Mr Daigeler: Oh, I see. Okay, that's fine.

Mr Drummond White (Durham Centre): The chap who wanted to present --

The Chair: Was there.

Mr White: -- was already on the agenda.

The Chair: It just shows how quickly committee moves. I would just note -- and I'll raise this with each of the whips -- that there have been a couple of organizations that for one reason or another are not able to come. We might want to just think if there is another one.

Mr Tony Martin (Sault Ste Marie): I would like to say right off the bat, in light of the very valuable exercise this is, I think, and the information we can glean and the discussion we can have around this topic, as whip on this side I have no difficulty considering others who might present themselves if we have the time so that we might hear their perspective or view or the direction they feel we might go on this.

The Chair: Fine. I'll touch base with the subcommittee members tomorrow on that.


The Chair: If we could proceed, I call Mr Bernard Shapiro, the Deputy Minister of Colleges and Universities, and Ms Jan Donio, assistant deputy minister for student support and corporate services. I want to welcome you both to the committee. I think, as you're aware, we had set aside one hour. We do in fact have an hour and a half. I'm not saying that we have to keep you here for all that time, but if the questions remain fulsome and if you're agreeable, perhaps we might go anywhere between 5 and 5:30, at which time our next witness will appear.

Dr Bernard Shapiro: Certainly, Mr Chairman, we'd be quite agreeable to stay as long as there are questions we may want to pursue.

The Chair: Fine. Perhaps the best thing, then, Dr Shapiro, is to ask you to begin. I think, as you're aware, our object here is to look at the program and meet and talk with others -- students, administrators -- but we felt it would be particularly useful, at the beginning of the committee hearings, to hear from you and get an overview of just how the program functions.

Dr Shapiro: Thank you very much. I certainly am very appreciative of the opportunity to be able to come and speak with the committee. I look forward as well to learning from the committee, not only today but in terms of the report that will eventually emerge as a result of your own deliberations.

All that I'm going to try to do this afternoon is to present a brief overview of the Ontario student assistance program, information regarding different types of student loan programs and an update on the program review which has currently been under way and has been for the last several months.

Throughout my own presentation I'll be referring to the current program as the OSAP program, which is an acronym. It seems to be the one we use, the students use and the schools use and so I will use it here as well. I hope you'll forgive me for that shorthand way of referring to what it is we're discussing when we talk about that government program which provides financial assistance to needy post-secondary students.

I circulated to you just a few minutes ago some information, a sort of little package which contains some preliminary data the ministry has gathered and which I hope will be of use to you throughout our discussions this afternoon. You may find it useful in future afternoons as well. If you should find that there are some kinds of information you don't have but would like to have, please don't hesitate to have the clerk get in touch with us. We'd be glad to provide it on an ongoing basis.

Although I'm supposed never to begin by apologizing, I will. I should point out that there is no page 18 in the package you've just had. It is not a missing page; it's the numbering that's incorrect. There's nothing missing in the package; it's just that there is no number 18; you go from 17 to 19. Don't spend a lot of time looking for the other page. It was just a numbering mistake.


The Chair: Committee members are not necessarily strong in mathematics, so we appreciate that.

Dr Shapiro: Before I go to the program itself, I'd like to clarify at least a term which appears in the question and in the motion being put forward but which is not part of the current program, and that term is "scholarship." In the post-secondary community, scholarships are usually seen as financial awards provided to students based on academic achievement. Although the province does have a small -- at least small relatively speaking -- graduate scholarship program, it is my understanding that it is not this program which prompted the question and therefore it is not the Ontario graduate scholarship program you wish to discuss. I would certainly be glad to discuss it with you at a future time, if you'd like. I don't mind that. It's just that I hadn't thought that was the focus of the question, so I will be discussing what we refer to as the OSAP program, which provides financial assistance to post-secondary students based on financial need as opposed to relative accomplishment.

The OSAP program is comprised of repayable assistance in the form of loans -- with loans you get something you have to pay back -- and non-repayable assistance provided to students as a grant. This program is a mechanism used by the province to assist its residents in pursuing a post-secondary education by providing funds to students who would otherwise be financially unable to pursue their studies.

With respect to the material at hand, the package I've handed out, you can refer to it and I will refer to it as I go through my presentation this afternoon. In addition to a brief overview of the current OSAP program, I will be discussing issues related to program demand -- that is, the demand on the program for resources -- and issues about the OSAP review that's currently under way in the ministry. There is some material as well on interprovincial comparisons which might be of interest to you, and finally, some very preliminary kind of material on income-contingent loan repayment, which is part of one of the alternatives both we are considering and in which some interest was expressed in the motion that was brought forward.

Let me go first to a kind of overview of the current program. The current OSAP program is in fact about 13 years old. It was established in 1979, bringing together the federal Canada student loan program with a provincial loan program and a provincial grant program. It was decided at that time to provide grants to the most financially needy students and students from less needy but still needy -- those terms are all comparative, of course. Students from less needy families would be allowed to access loan assistance, either in addition, depending on the case, or instead of.

The program is based on the concept, to put it in perhaps a slightly oversimplified way, that the costs of post-secondary education are to be made up of three different components. There are contributions by the family, contributions by the student and OSAP assistance. So there are the three things that come together to provide for the full cost of post-secondary education. The equation, as I suggested, is simple, perhaps a little oversimple. Parents and students are expected to contribute towards allowable post-secondary costs, and if their contributions do not equal the allowable costs, then the government will contribute in the form of grants and/or loans.

The cost side of the equation includes tuition fees, books, equipment, transportation, personal and living costs. In 1987, about five years ago, these costs were expanded to include child care costs as well. All of these costs have a maximum which is allowable. For example, tuition fees are set at the current rates, whatever the current tuition rate is, while equipment and books are covered to a maximum of $800. That's I think an interesting example to use, because I think it's probably the case, although we don't have a lot of very good data on this matter, that in some cases at least, the allowable costs don't equal the actual costs. In some cases they are less, as it turns out, but in some cases that take equipment and books, if you thought of medicine or engineering or fine arts, the allowable costs probably are not as great as the actual costs incurred by the student.

A formula was developed to assess what parents should contribute based on income and how much students should contribute based on summer earnings. There was a separate formula for married students and yet another formula for mature students who had worked for a significant time period before returning to post-secondary education. However, these last two groups -- that is, the mature students and the married students -- comprised an insignificant number of students at the time the program was developed some 13 years ago, which resulted in OSAP policies being designed mostly for students living at home with their parents and attending university or college immediately after completing high school.

In the last decade there has of course been considerable change in this regard, and although the majority of students are still what might be called the traditional type, with each passing year greater numbers of non-traditional students are seeking access to the post-secondary system. In order to meet the needs of these students, OSAP has been modified each year, never a big change at any one time and never really a basic conceptual rethinking of the program, but for example, it now includes such features as a special assessment for sole-support parents and appeal opportunities for students facing family situations that are in conflict or family situations in which violence enters into the experience of the student.

There are other aspects of the program that we might mention just by way of beginning. It was designed to allow access to grant assistance only for the first degree, at which time it was assumed students proceeding to graduate studies would access only loan assistance. For all practical purposes, the grant program is available only to undergraduate students, either at the college or the university.

That's a distinction I might make, because I've found in a number of the discussions we've had in a variety of committees that have been rethinking OSAP over the past year that it's always discussed in terms of university students, and as you'll see in the data that are attached to this material, the program is of course for college and university students. In some ways, although college students often benefit less in terms of dollars because their programs are shorter, they're proportionately greater users of the system than are university students because their relative need is usually greater.

The package you have in front of you contains a brief overview of the program, which has had a few minor changes but is still basically the same as that program designed some 13 or 14 years ago. You might want -- as I go through, I'll try to refer to page numbers where appropriate -- to take a look at some of the information there.

On the very first page, the main point is that the assistance is needs-based. Data from our program files reveal that this is as true today as it was in the earlier years of the program. Grant assistance is provided using more restricted criteria than loan criteria, and still today over 75% of grant assistance is provided to students who come from families with incomes below $35,000. Students from these income levels will also qualify for loans, depending on their allowable costs. On the other hand, a student from a family with an annual income of $50,000 would access only a Canada student loan of just over $1,000, depending, again, on the cost to that particular student in that particular program.

The grant-first policy is provincial government funding provided in the form of grants to the most needy students. The original intent of the policy was to ensure that high debt loads did not stop lower-income students from pursuing post-secondary study. In terms of the data we have relative to the interprovincial comparisons, this has turned out to be the case; that is, the average debt load of the student leaving the OSAP system is around $13,000. That is quite low relative to interprovincial comparisons, simply because we have the grant-first program and loan later, whereas almost all the other provinces, I think -- in fact all of the others; I may not be entirely correct -- have a loan-first program, grant later.

Loan assistance is comprised of both federal and provincial loans. The federal program is called the Canada student loan program, which may be supplemented by the Ontario student loan program. It is important to remember that the federal loan program is only administered by the province and that the policies are determined by the federal government. Both federal and provincial loan assistance is guaranteed, which means that should the student not repay the loan assistance, the governments pay the bank the amounts outstanding. The governments also pay the interest to the banks while the student is in school and up to six months after the studies are completed.

These loans are to be repaid by students by fairly conventional methods. Six months after study is concluded, all student loans are consolidated. Repayment is amortized for a maximum of 10 years and paid in monthly instalments. Should a student default on payments at any time during the repayment period, the federal government pays the bank the outstanding Canada student loan amount and the provincial government repays the outstanding Ontario student loan amount.


It might be noted that annually, students default on provincial loans on 2% to 3% of the loan portfolio. This is, for a variety of reasons, not all of which are terribly clear, about one quarter the federal default rate and comparable, at least to our understanding, to the market rate loan default.

Perhaps if you would like to take a look at pages 3 and 4 in the attached material, we could talk a little bit about current program demand. The first chart in this section, on page 3, highlights the growth in demand for assistance under this program over the past four years, as well as the growth in the number of applications.

Also provided on page 4 is recent historical data on program utilization. It will give you some idea of which programs are being used, how much money is being spent on each program and how that has changed over the past several years. You will notice that just over 80,000 students received grant assistance and over 132,000 received some type of loan assistance. Given that many of these students received both types of assistance, the total number of students receiving assistance was just over 155,000 this past year.

It should be noted, as you see the increases in the amount being spent over the past year or two, that no one group of students has been receiving significantly more money during that time period. It is simply that more students require assistance. In fact, compared with 1989-90, about 40,000 more students accessed assistance in the past year.

Research has demonstrated that unemployment rates turn out to be one of the best indicators for OSAP utilization. I don't want to say one of these things causes the other, which is a more complex question, but nevertheless it appears that for every 1% increase in the unemployment rate, we have an approximately 1.5% increase in the number of applications for OSAP.

You might notice the subsequent pages. I won't be referring to them individually until we get to the end. We've tried to provide information in both graphic and tabular form on the same page, so the information at the bottom of the page is the same information contained in the graph. I did it for two reasons. One is that some people like to look at graphs and other people like to look at tables, and the other is that our reproduction facilities left something to be desired and not all the graphs are all that easy to read. So between the two, you should be able to access the information.

Although demand is up and the budget, of course, is in a sense bursting at the seams, OSAP is still a program that is significantly criticized for not providing enough students with adequate funding. Therefore, in the spring of 1991 a review of the program was announced to identify program problems and determine enhancements which might make it more effective.

The consultation process of the review determined, or at least settled on, several major issues within OSAP that the consultation group felt needed changing; for example, the possibility that grant funding might not be limited to the first eight semesters, which is the current situation, as I indicated before. As you might imagine, the notion is that it seems hardly consistent with the notion of lifelong learning, because if we really mean it about lifelong learning, what are we doing limiting grant assistance to the first eight semesters?

There was also a lot of concern, just for example -- I'm not going to try to go through them all this afternoon -- over the residency and dependency criteria, which often tie students to their parents well into their late 20s and are seen as completely unreasonable given the context in which most young people live out their lives at the current time.

However, each of these issues and the array of other program concerns that were identified are of course expensive to change within the current program and budget parameters. The changes are especially expensive in a grant program, where every dollar of additional assistance costs a dollar, while a dollar in loan assistance costs only approximately 40 cents, taking interest and loan defaults into account.

The OSAP review that commenced in April 1991 became part of a program reallocation review of the government in the fall of 1991. In 1991 the government launched a general review of all its large spending programs in preparation for the upcoming budget, and OSAP was simply one of the programs that was considered along with all the others.

Therefore, we found ourselves in a somewhat different situation than we began with in terms of the review. We now found it necessary not only to find program enhancements and to figure out how the program could be better organized, but to ensure that the program, which was growing at an unprecedented rate, was also fiscally viable in terms of the resources that might be made available to it.

Throughout the review process, which continues of course at the moment, the ministry has been testing and researching a wide variety of program alternatives to assess financial feasibility and program implications. Many of these alternatives require different amounts and/or types of loan assistance to students.

I might move on, then, to talk, at least briefly, about loan assistance. Before I cover any sort of somewhat more detailed information, I'd like to take a moment and highlight the different principles which might underlie a student loan program. If you look in the package on page 16, you'll find some background material relative to this issue.

First, you will notice an interprovincial comparison of loan debts. As I've already referred to, as you can see, the average amount owing varies among the provinces and is based on the type of provincial student and aid program offered. Ontario is the only province which allows students to access provincial grant money before receiving loan assistance, which is why our loan debt average is low in comparison to other jurisdictions.

You may note that Quebec also has low debt levels, which is mainly due to the fact that Quebec has a special relationship with the Canada student loan program that allows Quebec to access the assistance but deliver it as its own program, not abiding by federal policies or parameters for the Canada student loan program. This really is quite interesting because the legislation under which this is made possible through the Canada student loan program theoretically makes the alternative payment scheme Quebec has accessed -- so has the Northwest Territories, as another example -- available to any province which decides to access it. We have spent quite some time during this past year working with and talking to our federal colleagues, suggesting that we might like to access it ourselves, and rather than deal with the federal program, just access our share of the funds and administer an entirely provincial program.

I have the sense -- but it's only my sense; I don't want to pretend it's more than that -- that Ontario, having raised that issue, has caused the government, the federal government in this case, to decide that it may want to change the rules of the game, because if both Quebec and Ontario opt out of the program, the viability of the program as a national program gets a bit awkward. Anyway, what they've suggested to us is that they're reviewing the program and may change the rules. That's something whose outcome we will await.

The reason of course that Quebec's access to the funds makes it possible for it to have a lower student debt load is that once it has the funds it can give them either as grant or loan, depending on what the preference is of the government of the time.

The type of loan program offered through the Canada student loan program and all provincial loan programs is what I would refer to as a conventional loan program, where loans are provided based on financial need. Loans are provided based on current financial situation, considering assets, income, liabilities etc to determine if the family could access a market-rate loan from a lending institution. Students from families who could not access market-rate loans from lending institutions are provided with government-subsidized loans that require the student to negotiate a loan with the bank which the government guarantees. The government pays the interest while the student is in school and until six months after completion.

There is more detailed information in your package about these types of loans. As well, there is an amortization chart on page 20 which shows monthly payments for certain loan amounts amortized over a 10-year period with an interest rate of 10%. Obviously it would be different depending on the interest rate and the amortization period you chose to use. You may wish also to note that both the federal government and the province have an interest-relief program which will pay the interest on the loan for an additional 18-month period if the student is unemployed or has a very low income level.

Another type of student loan, which we certainly do not have in the province at the moment -- I know David Stager will be here to talk to you about this kind of loan; I think it's some time next week, although I'm not sure of the date -- is of course the income-contingent loan. Income-contingent loans are seen more as an investment where students are provided with the assistance required and repay it based on their income after graduation. There is not a needs test. Students who request the assistance are provided with it and will repay it based on their earnings upon completion of study.

Given that the data demonstrate that university and college students do tend to earn more than those who do not pursue post-secondary study, it is perceived or believed that the investment in education will likely place them in income brackets where their borrowed money can be repaid using a very low percentage of their income, usually spread over a longer time period, such as 25 years.


In designing such a system -- there are not many actually in use -- it is usually envisioned that repayment would be facilitated through the taxation system. So if one thought about it for Ontario and one wanted to pursue that, one would presumably hope you could manage the repayment through the federal income tax system, as that's obviously a system set up which people use each year, and then it would be possible to track people who moved to different places in Canada and do a whole variety of other things, rather than mount an entirely separate administrative system for that purpose.

Australia has recently introduced an income-contingent model which covers tuition fees. The program is designed so that all students may access the loans for tuition fees; however, there is an option to pay the tuition fees without the loans if you so wish. It's a very new program -- I think it was introduced about two years ago -- so it's difficult to know what the full implications or effectiveness of the program would be at this point in time. In Australia, it's a federal program. The other student assistance programs in Australia tend to be state programs, but this is a federal program, and it's limited to tuition fees.

The Smith report, the recent report Stuart Smith did on university education in Canada, also spoke about the income-contingent model and the need to move student financial assistance in this direction. Recent reports from the Council of Ontario Universities, which did a study which the ministry sponsored, and from Queen's University have suggested exactly the same thing, so I think it's a topic that's likely to come up repeatedly as we try to go to a redesign of OSAP.

There is a very brief overview of the income-contingent notion in your package, and, as I said earlier, you'll probably be hearing a lot more about it from various groups that come to the committee in the next days and weeks. One also needs to understand that, like any other model, the income-contingent model is capable of many, many variations. There are different models of it, different ways in which you can imagine repayment occurring; for example, I've seen some schemes which suggest that students in very high income brackets ought to pay back not only what they borrowed but more, so as to help subsidize students from lower income brackets; there are all kinds of variations one can imagine. But the general idea behind income-contingent loans is that each generation finances its own post-secondary education; each student, to the extent that he or she incurs a cost not subsidized by the government, pays his or her own way depending on capacity to pay in terms of later income.

Of course, the review of OSAP is ongoing and the ministry is currently considering a wide variety of options. Alternative loan programs which consider changing amortization periods, gearing repayment to income and accessing the federal assistance differently are all part of the review process that's currently under way.

One of the keys, of course, to an effective student loan program seems to be debt-load management. It seems vital to ensure that the amount of debt does not deter low-income students from pursuing post-secondary education. Second, the debt load needs to be appropriately amortized so that students just commencing their working life will be able to meet their monthly repayment obligations. Third, it appears that there needs to be a repayment relief program to help students who during their repayment are unable, due to financial circumstances, to meet the monthly obligations.

Of course, there is another option if one really doesn't want to have to deal with some of the complexities of debt management, and that is to make sure no one incurs any debt. That is one of the options the ministry will need to consider and has been considering: moving off the loan program altogether to an all-grant program. As you can imagine, it's a very expensive option for any government that might be in power, but nevertheless it will be one of the options we consider as we try to put together a program that will best serve the needs of the province and its students and at the same time still be manageable in terms of the resources the government is able to make available.

It's an incredibly interesting problem; it's a complicated problem, but that's what makes it particularly interesting. In that sense, I really look forward to the committee's report, because I think it should be of considerable help to us as we try to think of the alternatives that might be available to the government for assisting students and providing access to the post-secondary institutions.

This might be an appropriate place for me to stop. I've probably gone on long enough in terms of the general introduction to the program, and I'd certainly be glad to answer any questions I can. If I can't answer the questions and if my colleague's also unable to answer the questions, we'll certainly try to do better for you in the days immediately ahead.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Dr Shapiro. I should note for those who are looking at the clock on the wall that it is still operating on another time zone. It is now approximately 25 to 5.

Just before going to questions, could I ask what the time frame is for your review, or is there one?

Dr Shapiro: We have been asked to return to treasury board in the fall, in September of this year, with a report outlining options and recommendations for change. The expectation is that the changes agreed to, if any are agreed to, would be effective for the following school year, that is, for 1993-94.

The Chair: Thank you. I have a number of people who've indicated they'd like to ask questions. We'll begin with Mr White.

Mr White: How much time do we have?

The Chair: We have until 5:30. For everyone on the committee, I propose to rotate, if that's the way the questions go, but otherwise I'll just go to whomever has a question.

Mr White: I have a couple of interlinked questions. I'm glad you combined the graphs and charts so those of us who are differentially abled could get an understanding of these issues. There's one question I wanted to ask first off. I notice in terms of the age of the OSAP recipients that over the period of some seven years, that age has gotten much older. The other thing I was struck with is that at the same time the proportion of married recipients is larger, and that while we had 52 male to 48 female in the past, now it's 58 female to 42 male. So there's been a shift, a very marked shift, I would suggest, in the composition of that group.

I'm struggling a little, because I know that student loans -- OSAP, CSL -- have always been thought of as being something one gets into as a young person, a 19-year-old, an 18-year-old, and then you graduate when you're 21, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, with a BA and then you pay back your student loan over some 10, 20, 30 years.

But as I look at this, it seems as if we are dealing with a different population in colleges and universities than we were 10 years ago or seven years ago, we're dealing with an older population, even though the student loans program really is based on a formula of whether your father can afford to pay for you. At my age, I'm not quite sure it's a really viable question. I remember returning to university in Ms Witmer's riding when I was around 30. Obviously, the capacity of my family to support me was largely irrelevant when I had my own family. I'm wondering if the nature of the system is going to be changed to reflect that changing group.

Dr Shapiro: That, of course, remains to be seen, as to which changes get made, but that is certainly one of the issues uppermost in our mind, because the nature of the population is changing. It's changing slowly, but it is changing, on exactly the lines you suggested and other lines as well, because the population inside the colleges and universities, however much it remains, relatively speaking, a middle-class or upper-middle-class environment, is becoming less so both in terms of socioeconomic status and also in terms of other kinds of characteristics. Not only are there more women; there are more disabled students, there are more students representing various kinds of racial and ethnic groups than there were. This remains a problem for us; they're not accessing in proportion to their representation in the population, certainly, but the population is becoming very much more heterogeneous.

That introduces not only problems of age but also problems of attitude in terms of how it is you perceive, for example, the accumulation of debt. People perceive this differently even though it's the same amount they may be talking about, even though they may have the same opportunities for repayment in the future.

My own sense of it is that the most sensitive part of this change has to do with the dependency criteria; that is, the most difficult part will be to ask ourselves to what extent and to what time should we assume that parents have an obligation to provide for students pursuing post-secondary education, because, of course, every year there are examples of parents who are clearly able to assist but who do not, and we have to provide special appeal procedures for that. This is not an easy or comfortable experience for many students to go through. That is the area I find most problematic at present, and the one we've got to pay the closest attention to.


In terms of age and the repayment of a loan, that has not thus far turned out to be a really significant problem. Although the age is going up, the age at graduation tends still, when we're talking about the first four years, at least, or the first two or three if it's a college program, not to be a really significant matter. If one expanded at some point in the future OSAP so that it dealt with all kinds of education and training opportunities that occur later in life, whether or not they are formal degree or formal diploma programs of one kind or another, then that would become a much more significant matter than it is at the moment.

Mr White: Along those same lines, again with the issue of family dependency, my experience on a number of occasions, having worked in the past as a family counsellor -- I have assisted many families that have broken up, frankly, where the children were living on their own even as adolescents and had been securing assistance. I have had difficulties on innumerable occasions with the OSAP office, of people being turned down because they had families, and those families, because of conflict, would refuse to acknowledge the fact that their children had been on their own for years; and of course the opposite, which we are all familiar with, which is the fairly wealthy person whose children are receiving assistance or a grant.

If this family dependency issue were removed and there were not a grant component with those two things, do you think there would be problems engendered?

Dr Shapiro: Certainly it would eliminate some of the problems you've described, so some issues would be resolved by taking that process and going, for example, to a program which didn't consider family obligations at all. If it were considered that that is no longer appropriate in the current social context in which we exist and in which you had no grant, the incentive to abuse the program would be drastically reduced and people who had wouldn't have to, in a sense, enter into a process of establishing the presence or lack of financial support from families.

What would have to be managed in that kind of model would be the debt load of students. We would have to think carefully about whether that were appropriate and how we felt about it, but I think it's a viable option.

Mr Daigeler: Mr Chairman, let me first ask you or perhaps the clerk, will the minister appear before the committee as well? Is there any plan for that?

The Chair: We have scheduled time for the ministry to appear again at the end of the hearings. Certainly the committee could request the minister to come, but at present it's simply a block of time at the end of our hearings where there is provision for another visit by the ministry.

Mr Daigeler: It's the first standing order 123 session that I'm attending, so I presume there's no precise precedent.

The Chair: There's no obligation, no. It varies from --

Mr Daigeler: But probably there's a desire.

The Chair: Certainly the committee is free to indicate its --

Mr Daigeler: Then I simply indicate my desire that the minister will come at least at one point, be it at the beginning or at the end, because there are certainly a number of issues that relate to policy which I'm sure the deputy minister would hesitate to get into and be very careful not to trespass across that sometimes very fine line.

I don't want to put him on the spot, but he did put one approach to OSAP at the very end of his remarks, indicating it as a possible option, and that's the one where we move to a grants-only program. The way the deputy minister presented it was as an option that is rather far removed.

I would just like to remind the committee, and that's why it would be good if the minister were there, that the most recent -- at least that I have -- policy statement prepared for the party of the current government states as a long-term goal of the New Democratic Party "to replace the present student assistance program with one that is based on an all-grants system." I am just wondering whether the minister and perhaps the gentlemen and the lady who are on the other side of the committee are still staying with that particular policy.

Mr Martin: On a point of order, Mr Chairman: Would the member be willing to share with us where it comes from?

Mr Daigeler: Oh, very much so. I would have hoped that perhaps the members of the committee would have that as part of their briefing. It was prepared at the time by the critic for the NDP, which of course at the time was in opposition. It's dated January 23, 1986. It was a press release by Marion Bryden at the time. It spells out in great detail, frankly, the expectations then of the NDP. As I indicated, that long-term goal of turning to a grants-only program is mentioned.

Mr White: On a point of order, Mr Chairman: Mr Daigeler mentioned that this is his first 123 hearing. He probably would like to be informed that 123 hearings are time-limited. While we have a witness in front of us we should probably spend that time with the witness, because we have only 12 hours.

Mr Daigeler: Mr Chairman, I don't particularly appreciate that intervention. I think the purpose of the 123 hearings is above all to give the opposition members an opportunity to review matters that are of some substance. I consider the policy orientation of the current government of very great significance and I regret that the minister, at least so far, has not taken the effort to come and present his policies.

I think it is significant and important to have the deputy minister here to present us the ideas and studies that have been done, but at the same time we must not overlook the fact that it is the policies that drive the administration and not the other way around. So at one point I hope I will get an opportunity to hear from the minister what his policy goals are for the whole review. The review, as the deputy minister has said, is still under way, and we are very much looking forward to hearing what the minister is planning to do with this particular review.

I would like to ask of the deputy minister at this point: You indicated the various approaches across the provinces to OSAP, and I thought that was very helpful because I was not really that familiar with the approaches. What would be your explanation? Would you consider it a positive step? Why would we want to take over the whole OSAP administration in the way Quebec is doing? Do you see an advantage for the Ontario students in moving in this direction, and if not, what would be some of the disadvantages? What would be your response to this?


Dr Shapiro: Initially we had two ideas in mind in terms of trying to access the alternative payment scheme under the Canada student loan program. One was that because we were a grant-first program, under the Canada student loan formula Ontario was not accessing its share of the total Canada student loan pot. So some of our share of that pot was going to other provinces because of the way in which our program was being administered, because we had grant first rather than loan first.

One thing we wanted to do was simply to access more of that money so we could give out more assistance to students. The other advantage for doing it would of course be that we could then mould the program to one set of parameters rather than two -- that is, when you're operating a double program you never know when the rules of another one are going to change. If you are trying to get them to fit together in a way that would best benefit students, a single administration in a sense and a single set of policies seemed to us more sensible or at least potentially more sensible than a double set would be. So those are the two ideas we had in mind.

Through a number of other changes, in the last year we have been able to begin to access more of what is considered to be our share. As you will notice in the figures you have, the student loan program numbers are going up each year. We have been figuring out different ways in which to mould our program so that we can access what everyone understands is Ontario's share of those dollars. So we have had some success in that.

We've now put aside the other issue of a single program while waiting for the federal government to complete its policy review in terms of how it's going to handle the Canada student loan in the future.

Mr Daigeler: Do you have any indication what their time frame is and how seriously they are reviewing this?

Dr Shapiro: I believe they're serious about it. I'd hesitate to mention a time frame. Like some of the time frames I myself have experienced in the past three years, they tend to recede into the future as you approach them. I don't mean to be snide about it. I think that things are sometimes more complicated than they appear and developing consensus over how to proceed is not easy. So I don't think it was any lack of effort or interest, but it remains an open question. I don't know when.

Mr Daigeler: Do you know whether that's currently one of the issues that's on the table during the constitutional discussions? I guess that would be one of the devolution of powers.

Dr Shapiro: I'm not aware of it in that context, but neither am I close to the constitutional discussions. It may be something being discussed, but not to my knowledge.

Mr Daigeler: I don't know how you are proceeding.

The Chair: Ms Witmer, perhaps at the first round a question and a supplementary, and then we can come back to you, Mr Daigeler.

Mr Daigeler: Okay.

The Chair: I have Ms Witmer, then Mr Martin and then Ms Fawcett.

Mrs Elizabeth Witmer (Waterloo North): Dr Shapiro, I appreciated your presentation. I live in a riding that has two universities and so my office staff is put in the enviable position of dealing with OSAP problems on a regular basis.

We faced one particular problem this year that I am personally quite concerned about. We talk about employment equity and the need to ensure that women in particular and the visible minorities are placed into positions. I've been faced twice this year with females who have one degree from another university outside of Canada and females who have children whom they are responsible for. As you know, at the present time these women are not entitled to support.

Do you see some changes occurring in the future? If we are going to provide the talent pool and make employment equity a reality, this is just one of the barriers that women and women immigrants are facing at the present time. They don't have the financial resources.

Dr Shapiro: I think there are two kinds of barriers, and they relate in a sense to two different aspects of the program. If we are talking about individuals who are pursuing a second degree, they have gone beyond eight semesters of post-secondary study and therefore grant assistance is unavailable to anyone, then that's a question that I referred to earlier and it is under active consideration in the review, whether or not we ought to extend eligibility periods to provide for people who are pursuing an additional degree -- very frequently, as you point out, at a point in time quite different from when they pursued their first degree.

Often when these individuals pursued their first degree they were in what is referred to as a traditional age cohort, 18 to 24, something of that sort, and come back to do a second sometimes 10 years later or 15 or 20 years later where the circumstances are very much more complicated. When the program was designed it was thought, "Well, by that time you are a sort of mature, responsible adult and you've managed to conserve resources appropriately so that you can further finance your education."

In a time when families, as someone was referring to earlier, are less intact than they used to be and these situations are less predictable, that may become more problematic than it has been. So that's one matter. We certainly are considering the question of extending eligibility periods.

I think it's only fair to point out that it's not difficult to imagine a large set of enhancements to the OSAP program that would really be of benefit, and I mean that very sincerely. They all do come along with a resource implication, and what you're frequently doing in terms of what the ministry staff, the people we consult with, are trying to imagine is how to use the available resources in the most effective way, which programs are the places of greatest need, which is of course what leads some people to talk about emphasizing loan programs rather than grant programs, because you can make the same basic investment and go farther, in a sense.

The other issue about employment equity groups of one kind or another, of which there are a number, accessing the initial post-secondary experience would be a question of revisiting our formula to see whether or not assistance provided to people in that context is sufficient.

The formulas are reviewed, of course, every year, and that would be one of the things we would think about, so it certainly is possible that we will change it. I hesitate to say it's going to happen, because in the midst of a review is an awkward time to be able to respond to that kind of question.

Mrs Witmer: Yes. I guess we talk a lot about employment equity and we talk about establishing quotas and what have you, but I do see one of the barriers to access is the fact that people are not able to access the educational facilities or access the training because of the dollars and as a result we don't even have the talent pool from which to draw, so I hope very serious consideration would be given to these two concerns. As I say, they've certainly been raised several times this year.

Dr Shapiro: I do appreciate that and we certainly will consider it carefully. Especially relative to this particular group or the kinds of groups you're referring to, I think there are other aspects of their situations the ministry is also trying to think through that don't relate to student assistance directly. For example, some people cannot access the institutions not because they can't get to the dollars -- that might be a problem -- but there also might be a problem of simple physical access, and I don't mean by handicapped students, which is another matter.

Mrs Witmer: That's right.

Dr Shapiro: If you're a single parent with children, child care is not as easily accessible everywhere as we would like, and just getting physically to the institution can be an issue, especially in rural areas where transportation is not as easily available. In that context we're trying to think about a kind of province-wide expansion of the Contact North network to see whether over a period of time we can't, so to speak, wire the province in such a way as to provide at least additional access to people whose physical capacities, not always because of disability but for all kinds of reasons, simply don't enable them to get to school, so to speak.

Mr Martin: Mr Shapiro, it's good that you came today, and I think it's important, as I said before, that we have this discussion around how we provide for our people as they try to get the education they need to participate more fully and positively in our society today. Certainly it seems to me anyway that, as we go on, the whole picture becomes more and more complicated by more and more factors.

My colleague earlier spoke to the fact, and you spoke to it as well, that we're now into a concept of lifelong learning. As a matter of fact, I was at a graduation this weekend where I watched students go across the stage, and the range of age was phenomenal. It was actually rather exciting to see in the community of Sault Ste Marie the number of mature students who are now graduating from college and university, and with that come all kinds of questions around their ability to do that, the affordability, because a lot of them have families and other financial considerations, such as mortgages, that the traditional student didn't have. It brings with it a very serious question of how you afford that, I suppose, that certainly was there before, but I don't think ever quite so poignantly as now.

The review that started in the spring of 1991, which I think reflects the government's attempt to try to get a handle on this: What were the principles upon which that review was based?


Dr Shapiro: Let me say a couple of things. I'll answer your question about the review in a minute, but something you said earlier caused me to think of another issue.

I think we should keep in mind that one way of thinking about the whole area is to differentiate between two different kinds of costs. For everybody attending our post-secondary institutions, the government pays most of the cost of the instruction itself. That is, the basic funding to the public colleges and universities covers about 80% of the cost in the university context, and the number is higher in the college context. So everyone is receiving, irrespective of their relative need, a large-scale subsidy.

One could think, for example, of the additional student costs -- let's say tuition, just to talk about something relatively straightforward, as something that could be managed under, for example, if we wanted an alternative, let's say the income-contingent loan repayment plan to cover tuition. For the older student the big issue is not the fact that the government covers the main costs of running the institution and some other plan covers the tuition costs. It's the living costs that are really the problem, especially when we remember that at the current time OSAP is not nearly as generous as social assistance. You'll do much better on social assistance than you will on OSAP. That's just a difference that's grown up over time. I don't think anyone intended it, but it's happened as the budgets have simply not been adequate for the demand upon them. So that's one way of thinking about it.

You could have models, as we try to imagine, different methods for handling these different kinds of costs. For example, if we're trying to think of options -- and I'm hoping you'll be as stimulating as I'm trying to be so that you can help us -- you could imagine an OSAP program that was limited entirely to tuition and school-related expenses like books and things of that sort, after which, if one could not manage whatever one needed in order to live appropriately in our society, we have a social assistance program. That's a whole different way of thinking about it. So there are different models available.

But to answer your question directly, the review has gone through what we consider to be three phases, and we did not foresee that when we began. We didn't begin foreseeing that these three phases would develop. They just have developed, and I'll try to describe them to you and give you some sense of what would be intended in each case.

In the first instance, when we began in April of 1991 the idea was to involve a wide group of stakeholders and identify ways of maximizing accessibility and equity in the financial sense for the post-secondary system. What can we do with OSAP in order to make this a better and more responsive system than it is? At the time, we did emphasize to the stakeholders we put together in a large-scale consultation exercise that there was absolutely no guarantee there would be any more money in the system. There might or there might not be, but we had to think about what we wanted to do in either circumstance and make recommendations. The idea was to try to work with the various groups out there to figure out what the best points of leverage would be, where the change is most necessary, and I must say we were quite impressed by the extent to which the stakeholders involved -- whether we're talking about the institutions or the students or the staffs of the various groups we had together -- have stuck with that consultation process. It has not been easy because of course their views aren't always consistent with each other, let alone with the developing views inside the ministry, but people have nevertheless stuck with it, which I think says a lot for them and the importance of the program.

It became particularly awkward because, as we began to develop the actual recommendations we might try to consider, hopefully for implementation in the year we were just about to begin, phase 2 developed not out of the clear blue sky but certainly not in conjunction with the program as we had outlined it. At that time, in September 1991 as I mentioned earlier in my remarks, the government embarked on a budget reallocation exercise in preparation of its own financial planning that involved all the large-scale spending programs of the government -- not OSAP in particular; OSAP was just one of them.

So the goal became slightly different. Rather than involve the stakeholders in identifying ways of maximizing financial accessibility and equity, it became a goal of how to develop options in this area in the same way that would result more directly in expenditure containment or possibly even in reduction for OSAP in the 1992-93 year. We were now in a different ball game and we tried to keep these two going together. We didn't try to abandon the first and mount the second. So we developed a whole series of options for treasury board and Cabinet Office to consider. We had continued consultation with the key stakeholders.

As a result of that process, cabinet agreed to make no serious changes in OSAP for 1992-93 and to add an additional $50 million to the 1991-92 budget to accommodate the increased demand for the program. Of course, we tried to consider a whole series of alternatives that would try to both make the program better and deal with reasonable costs at the same time. That took us through the end of 1991.

At the present time, in 1992, we're in what we consider to be phase 3 of the review, which has as a goal to try to achieve a balance between the equity and accessibility objectives of phase 1 and the fiscal objectives of phase 2. Inside the ministry, again working with a variety of different groups, we're trying to develop new combinations of repayable and nonrepayable assistance, different models of programs that might work. We hope to continue consultation with the key stakeholders and move towards the treasury board submission in September that I mentioned earlier this afternoon, which would provide a series of options from which the government would then make its choice.

I hope that's an answer to your question. If not, I'd be glad to say something more particular.

Mr Martin: You've certainly contributed even more than I'd anticipated you would give, and I appreciate that. Given that you've gone through a fairly lengthy review process and various phases to date, are you anywhere close to identifying particular alternatives? You mentioned one in your presentation: a contingency process that was coming out of Australia. Are there any others?

Dr Shapiro: I don't think it would be appropriate for me to say what options we may or may not be close to. As Mr Daigeler pointed out, that's a matter that's currently ongoing inside the ministry. What I can say is that it appears to us, as a result of the analysis we've done so far, that any program we bring forward is likely to be a combination program which will involve different kinds of assistance, depending on the situation. We've got all kinds of modules we've developed that you could put together.

For example, you could put together an income-contingent loan repayment for tuition fees and then have grants and/or loan assistance of various kinds for other kinds of costs. In addition to all that, you could have tuition bursaries for especially needy students or for students whom you especially wish to target to bring into the university or college population. It's our sense, as we try to balance both fiscal constraints and the need to provide good access to the system, that some combination of types is likely to characterize most of the options we develop. But we will develop pure models as well, purely a loan or purely a grant or purely something else.

Mrs Joan M. Fawcett (Northumberland): It's nice to see you again, Dr Shapiro. Looking at one of the options where there wouldn't be any grants available but strictly loans, it would be your contention then that this area would be opened up. I've had several students call my office, and also working mothers who want to go back, and they're saying, "I don't care if I get a grant; just get me a loan." They really are very adamant about that. I know there's a serious look at that. Other than the horrendous debt that follows the graduate, are there any other downsides you're looking at seriously in not wanting to open up the availability of the loans?

Dr Shapiro: The question of the debt load for an all-loans program depends on two things: first, what one believes is a reasonable debt load -- one assesses that -- and second, what one provides for people whose future income doesn't really make repayment of that reasonable. Our sense of it is that as you go to consider loan programs you must always consider what we call remission programs, which make an exception for people whose circumstances are such as to make loan repayment not very useful from either a social or a personal point of view.


The Chair: One is almost tempted to say that we wouldn't be looking at Olympia and York as an example in this.

Dr Shapiro: Almost tempted, but not quite.

I think there's another interesting question that makes a large difference in terms of the loan program, and that is the question of whether you're going to have a subsidized loan program, which is generally a program for which you pay the interest while the student is studying, or you have an unsubsidized loan program, in which case the interest simply accumulates as part of increased principal while the student is studying, because that makes a large difference in terms of what the cost of a loan program is going to be.

The actual size of the loan program has no limit beyond the credit of the government, so to speak. Since the government, in all the models we are working with, guarantees the loan, the only question is, how much is the government willing to guarantee and what is the default rate expected to be etc, so you can calculate the cost. But I do agree there are many students, especially, I would say, those who are pursuing programs when they are -- not to use words like "older" or "younger" -- over 30 who have exactly that point of view and who say, "We just need to get through the system; we'll be able to manage it later." That's why it's one of the options we've got on our list.

Mrs Fawcett: I have one other little question. A number of people have also wondered about athletic scholarships. I understand right now universities cannot offer this, or they choose not to. Of course they are quite readily available in the United States, and a lot of parents of prospective university students are saying, "How come there's not such a thing here?" I am wondering if you know anything about it.

Dr Shapiro: When I was the academic vice-president at the University of Western Ontario I had a whole speech on athletic scholarships that I gave on demand. I don't want to repeat that speech here.

The last time I myself considered the issue was at a time when I was a member of the Council of Ontario Universities and the whole issue of athletic scholarships came up, so I'm not really familiar with what the current situation is. What I will do is provide a briefing note for the committee either tomorrow or the next day on the athletic scholarship issue.

Mrs Fawcett: I appreciate that. Thank you very much.

Mrs Witmer: I'd like to go back to the income-contingent loan program. Has the ministry determined in any way the startup costs of that type of program?

Dr Shapiro: We haven't completed our work in that area. We do have the study that was produced, jointly sponsored with the Council of Ontario Universities, which certainly did consider that issue. We've been doing some additional work ourselves, but we're in the middle of that work. It depends partly on the model you adopt. If you adopt the model that provides such a loan up front, let's say for all students, then the cost of the program turns out to be the cost of borrowing what will amount to very large sums of money as the program matured. It would keep on more and more until of course the payback period began, and then it would start to plateau out for you, assuming a roughly stable student population.

We have been pursuing with various private lending institutions the extent to which the private financial sector would be willing to deal with loans on that scale. Thus far we haven't been wildly encouraged by the response. On the other hand, we're in the very early days and so I wouldn't want to say that it might not be quite manageable. There's one cost issue and one logistical issue that need to be resolved: It's the cost of borrowing very large sums of money, and the logistical issue can be, when the time comes, to either convince the federal government to collect the money through the income tax system or design an Ontario system to do the same thing. The latter would be a more complex but not necessarily an intractable problem. It would have to be worked through.

Mrs Witmer: You don't have any studies at the present time that you could share with the committee, or do you have anything?

Dr Shapiro: Not at the present time. We could make available to the committee the COU study, which we'd be glad to circulate to you, which we helped pay for and worked through. We'd certainly be glad to make that available.

The Chair: I think that would be helpful, if you could do that.

Dr Shapiro: Yes, we could do that immediately, because we have that.

Mr Daigeler: To pursue the question on income contingency, because it's obviously a central focus of the question put forward by Mrs Fawcett, you indicated that there were three phases to your overall OSAP review and perhaps the second phase wasn't really envisaged when you originally embarked on it because it was really a restraint phase. Nevertheless, you said that consultations were ongoing. I am wondering what kind of consultations have been done on this income contingency idea. I have a copy -- and I appreciate receiving that from your ministry -- of the first round of consultation on OSAP review and I read the whole thing a few weeks ago. I looked at the table of contents. There's no mention at all of income contingency in this report and, if I'm not mistaken, I don't think the issue ever came up in that first round of consultations.

Obviously, if the ministry were to move in that direction, it would be a very significant shift in the whole OSAP program. As you probably know, I tried to tie the minister down a couple of times on that during the last session. Perhaps that helped to have the cabinet drop the idea at least for the time being, but who knows? Again, you're not at liberty to answer that question. But my question that I think you can answer is, what consultation has taken place on the income contingency question?

Dr Shapiro: The income contingency question has gone through a couple of different phases itself inside the ministry.

The first task we undertook, which was undertaken quite early while phase 1 was still going on, was to agree that we would jointly sponsor the COU study which we will circulate to you probably by tomorrow. Since then we have had a number of consultations on the possibilities for this program, both inside the ministry and with a couple of other groups. As well, we've tried to take a look at the Australian experience, for example, to try to understand how it might operate and how it might be helpful to pursue.

We have a meeting coming up within the next week or two again with COU and another group of people to try to pursue that further to see what's really in this model: Are there aspects of it that we can usefully use? I think it is true: Relative to the consultation you described in phase 1, it would be somewhat of an overstatement to say that it never came up. I think it would not be an overstatement to say that the group being consulted didn't like it and wanted to pursue other kinds of options in the OSAP program.

If you think about the context in which phase 1 began, there was a lot less concern about the fiscal viability of the program and a lot more concern about how to mould it in ways that would seem to be more appropriate from the point of view of the recipients of the program and the institutions of which they were a part. I think it is true that if we decide to go in the end with income contingency, either in general or as a part of a student assistance program, it is a major change, but hopefully a really good review will yield at least one major change.

Mr Daigeler: There was a committee in place to do that first phase, and I think this book here is the result of that review. I think that particular committee is now disbanded, is it not?

Dr Shapiro: No, it's still in place.

Mr Daigeler: It's still in place. Has it been meeting?

Dr Shapiro: It was supposed to meet, I think it was, last Monday and I cancelled the meeting myself, I must say, because I wanted to be there and couldn't make it, as we were getting ready for the last-minute preparations for the budget, which came on Thursday of that week. We hope to reschedule it quite soon, because we do want to meet.

Mr Daigeler: So that committee will still be the ongoing sounding-board for you as to --

Dr Shapiro: It will at least be an ongoing sounding-board. I don't want to say it will be the only one. I haven't developed another one, so it's not that there's some other one we are using that I'm not discussing with you. There may be other groups you wish to consult as well, but we intend that to be the major ongoing sounding-board for this kind of program.


Mr Daigeler: You will be going back to them, then, specifically with this income contingency question which still seems to be around?

Dr Shapiro: What we will be doing is going back to them with the alternatives the minister believes to be viable. I'm not going to say now what those alternatives are going to be, but that's what we will be taking to him. Of course, they're free to bring up anything they like.

The Chair: I have Mr Wilson. Mr Martin, Ms Mathyssen wanted to question as well -- if I could put her after Mr Wilson, because that may bring us to the end of our time and I see our next witness is here.

Mr Gary Wilson (Kingston and The Islands): Ms Witmer mentioned her two universities, so I'll meet those with two in my own riding plus a community college. Of course, that raises an interesting question. Only one of the universities I think uses OSAP.

My question has to do with your review and whether you are considering the operation of OSAP, in part relating to a question that all MPPs face, myself more immediately perhaps, and that is the frustration that students face in working through the system and just whether that figures into the costs, not only monetary but with regard to the students' ability to study.

Dr Shapiro: To answer the question directly and then say something a little bit about it, this review is not, at present, at all focused on the administration of OSAP. I don't mean that as a judgement that we've arrived at the perfect state for the administration of OSAP; it's just not in the terms of reference of this review.

As you probably know, OSAP does take a lot of administration. That is, of the almost 400 employees in the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, about 150 are in Thunder Bay at the student support branch. That's a considerable expenditure. In addition, there are other administration costs that don't accrue to the government but accrue to the institutions -- that is, institutions have financial aid offices which themselves participate in helping the students with OSAP. So there are those costs as well.

It would be our intention, once we finish the major policy phase of the review, to think about the administration of OSAP. It seems not helpful to think about that too clearly until you know what kind of program it is you're going to want to administer, because that will make a difference. So we hope to deal with that at a subsequent phase.

I should point out, however, that although there are a lot of frustrations in the system in terms of applying, filling out the forms, getting responses and launching the appeals -- and did somebody drop the records in a ditch on the way from Thunder Bay to Toronto, stuff like that; there are all kinds of stories that occur and come up -- the turnaround time for a response to an application has gotten much shorter, despite the enormous increase in the number of applications.

I think we have a group in Thunder Bay to which we owe a lot of thanks. It could have been a nightmare trying, without any increase in staff, to handle this gigantic increase in the number of applications. It was primarily made possible by two things. One is the beginnings, and it is only the beginnings, of an appropriate technology system for Thunder Bay. We're nowhere near through that but we have begun. But more important, I think the staff at Thunder Bay -- Jan Donio, who is on my right, was the program director at the time -- managed to put together a new application form for OSAP which has reduced by over 50% the number of applications that come in that aren't properly completed and therefore have to go through another round. It was our version of plain English to try to make the form somewhat more accessible. I'm not trying to say we've reached the ultimate aim in that regard, which is to make it really simple and straightforward, but I think enormous progress has been made.

Nevertheless, when we get to the end of the policy phase we will have to think of what the appropriate options are for the administration of OSAP. For example, I can count fairly regularly on getting advice from the Council of Ontario Universities at least that we ought to abandon the OSAP office in Thunder Bay, close that down, create the program parameters and allow the universities, each through their financial aid offices and the colleges each through theirs, to administer the program. A variety of other suggestions of that sort is always being brought forward and we will consider them, but we do feel that the policy issues have to be settled first so we know what kind of program we're talking about administering.

Mrs Irene Mathyssen (Middlesex): You mentioned earlier that you had looked at a grants-only scenario. I was wondering: What were your findings? What were the significant findings in that review of the grants-only possibility?

Dr Shapiro: The grant-only possibility, which has the obvious advantages that we don't need to repeat, turns out to be simply very expensive. That is, since it costs a dollar for every dollar you give in grant rather than 40 cents for every dollar you give in loan, it's simply a much more expensive program if you want to reach the same number of students. You could of course reach fewer students with the same amount of money, but that would hardly be an advance for the program. But I think that's at least one of the major difficulties we'd face in that regard.

Mrs Mathyssen: I had wondered if that was the irony: that in the attempts to make it more equitable by providing grants only there was that flip side of only being able to allow a certain and lower number of students to access.

Dr Shapiro: That's right. Many fewer students.

The Chair: I think we've moved to the end of the hour and a half, Dr Shapiro. I wonder if I might just ask you for one piece of information and then we can bring this part of the hearing to a close. If you have data with respect to francophone student participation in this program or if there are any particular elements of how the French-language system has -- that would be of use.

Dr Shapiro: I don't have the information with me, but I'll certainly see what we have available and would be glad to make it available to the committee.

The Chair: I think tomorrow the Advisory Committee on Francophone Affairs is going to be here, but I just thought I'd flag that as one area that would be useful to us.

Dr Shapiro: We'll try to get it to you for tomorrow.

The Chair: If I might then thank both of you for joining us this afternoon. As indicated earlier, I believe we will have an opportunity at the end of our hearings to meet with you or perhaps with the minister or perhaps with a number of people, and we look forward to that. But we do appreciate very much the material you have brought to us, and also your answers to our questions.

Dr Shapiro: Thank you as well. Might I just add that in the subsequent meetings of the committee I will not be here. Jan Donio to my right will be here at each of the moments so as to keep us informed of what's happening. I would certainly be glad to come back not only at the end but any other time that you feel it would be helpful to have me with you.



The Chair: If I might then call Mr Richard Johnston, who is the chair of the Ontario Council of Regents for Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology. This particular seating, Mr Johnston, may seem a bit strange to you. For those watching I just indicate they will probably notice a familiar face and note that in an earlier life our current witness was a member of the Legislature. So we are delighted to have you here. Perhaps in order to maximize our time, Mr Johnston, you would like to make a few remarks. I know I have had the opportunity to sit on some committees where I recall some interesting thoughts and ideas on OSAP, but we would appreciate your thoughts on that and then we'll get into some questions.

Mr Richard Johnston: Yes, I'm sure there might be a horrible sense of déjà vu for some people, but the enormous change that's come over me of course since leaving partisan politics will be evident to Mr Daigeler and others in short order, I'm sure. I did want to thank the committee for the invitation to appear on behalf of the Council of Regents of the college system. I'm here in that capacity as chair to respond to the initiative that's been taken under private members' prerogative here, one which I welcome. I'm very pleased the Legislature is looking at this general area.

The Council of Regents, however, has not had much time in recent months to be able to take on this issue. As you may know, besides a continuing responsibility for collective bargaining in the college system, which never seems to end, for which I'm now accountable, we have also been undertaking two major reforms: one around establishing standards in the college system, coming out of last year's budget, and also developing a paper on prior learning assessment, both of which are --

The Chair: Sorry, on which?

Mr Johnston: On prior learning assessment of adult learners in our system. Both documents are presently out in our system for consultation, so I'm basically on the road these days talking with our system and external people about these initiatives. We've got a deadline for the end of June to get them in to the minister, so we have not spent as much time on other issues like student loans as would have liked to.

We were involved in the first phase of the review by the ministry that the deputy has already alluded to, and we were very tied in at that stage, but in the last number of months we have not been as much; therefore I can't come here espousing a particular position on behalf of the council at this point for you, regrettably, although if you'd like to instruct me to go away and get that advice and give it back to you, I'd be more than happy to do so. But I am constrained, unlike the old days, in terms of expressing my personal opinions on these matters.

But there are a number of things I'd like to say. First and foremost is that a review of OSAP is crucial at this point, but in some ways I'm very glad that the review -- which was started before the bad times descended on us as severely as they have -- wasn't finished at that time, because what I've been discovering in my short tenure at the council of regents is that, in a very backhanded kind of way, the recession has been useful to our system to allow itself to look at some first principles again. I don't think the kind of review that OSAP has needed and which I have long advocated can be done in good times. I don't think it's the kind of thing that allows us to give up some of our territorial presumptions.

We are now, as you know, going to be establishing a restructuring committee to look at our whole system, and the timing of this kind of initiative you're taking and our need to incorporate OSAP review as part of that restructuring review are really crucial and need to be tied together. There's no way we can look at things like the length of our school year or how many hours of contact there are between our teachers and our students and other kinds of issues of restructuring without also looking at who is coming into our system at the moment and how we are providing supports to them.

One of the things that struck me recently is that we've always presumed that college students and university students, as far as student loans are concerned, should be dealt with in the same fashion and the same formula. One of the things I'd like to pose to you is that perhaps that's not the case. They are very, very different animals.

If you look at our present makeup in our colleges, more than 50% now are adults, not coming out of the high school system at all. We have an enormous number of people taking part-time studies, and not part-time studies in a general interest kind of fashion but in applied learning towards a diploma. Between 800,000 and 1 million people in this province are taking those kind of courses at the moment. They are a very different mix than that which the universities find for themselves in terms of the various types of aid students need to get access.

Generally speaking, we still have a larger number of people coming to us from lower socioeconomic levels than universities attract. They have greater concerns about long-term debt, for instance, and when we talk about contingent repayment concepts and that sort of thing, that has different implications, depending on the profile of your student body, for the universities and for the colleges, and they shouldn't necessarily be lumped together.

We are increasingly having students from the university level come to colleges for applied learning after they have got their degrees. These are people who are going to be penalized in some ways if we maintain the present loan structure, as they've taken maybe four years of university and then try to come to a college for two to three years to be able to get more education, and find that in fact they're going to run out of ability to access loans.

So for a number of reasons, we really do have to sit back and look at whether the college student should be looked at in the same way for tuition and for loans and other kinds of assistance to come to our system.

Also, we've always looked at tuition as something that is tied as sort of a percentage of, arbitrarily, the universities' average tuitions. I'm not sure that that's an appropriate thing. I'm not sure we shouldn't be examining how much people are willing to pay to go to private vocational schools, as an example, and to look at that in terms of the questions in our students' minds between the length of time they take to get their course and the amount of money they're willing to put into it, which is often inversely proportional. That is to say, they are willing to spend more money to go to DeVry to get a diploma of some sort within nine months than they are to take three years of time at a much lower cost to come into a community college.

These are factors that I don't think are the same when you look at the university student, a higher socioeconomic group, generally speaking, more willing to take four years of debt accumulation than is a student coming into our system.

So when I look at the questions that are before you in terms of the motion before this committee at the moment, I think it is important to look at some of the potential downsides of going to a loans-only approach. I think there are, as I say, applications that are different on contingent repayment plans depending on what your socioeconomic mix is, and I think those things do deserve a good look. I've only heard the last bit of the deputy's comments, but my sense is that at this stage it would be foolhardy to throw the baby out with the bathwater as we look at renewal, but we had better do it, very clearly, in the context of reshaping our post-secondary system.

The final thing I say to you, when you look at our system at the moment and its applied learning and tie-in so directly into the economy, is that we have now, I think, had an average of about a 25% increase in applications this year, and in some communities it's as high as 50% or 60%, wanting to come to this kind of learning because it has the practical implication of getting them a job more quickly than, say, taking a BA does. That, I think, should have implications for all of us as we look at the restructuring of the system, as well as look at how we finance students.

I would be happy to answer any questions I can.

The Chair: Thank you very much. I might suggest to the committee, given the time frame, what I'd like to do is offer 10 minutes to each caucus to put questions, and perhaps, as they say, the Chair will not see the clock. That might be the fairest way of allocating the time. If that's agreeable, we will begin with Mr Daigeler.

Mr Daigeler: Welcome, Mr Johnston. I think you are rather familiar with this particular chair still; at least, I'm still familiar with sitting on the other side.

I was listening to what I thought, quite frankly, were valuable contributions, and one that I still remember quite well, though you may not, was that when I was first elected you were part of the panel that was introducing the new members to the legislative duties, and you indicated that in this business you have to concentrate your efforts on one particular area. I think that was very valuable advice and I'm still trying to follow it, even though it's difficult sometimes because there are so many concerns being brought to our attention.

Anyway, with that, as much as I want to mention with regard to your past life, you said in your presentation that it would be foolhardy to throw out the baby with the bathwater, and you mentioned this in the context of the income contingency debates. I wasn't quite sure what you meant by that, what the baby was in this case. Could you be a little bit more specific?

Mr Johnston: I think we have a system which has, with all its flaws -- and goodness knows over the years I've pointed out a fair number of them -- in fact permitted access to higher education for a significant number of people, and I think there has been some improvement over the last few years in terms of the time turnaround, as was alluded to just at the last in the deputy's comments.

Some of the strange anomalies still apply when you look at an adult who is 19 years of age or 22 years of age and determine what he should get based on his parents' incomes. That always struck me as a very interesting human rights issue, in terms of why an adult isn't an adult and shouldn't be dealt with in terms of his own income if he so declares. That has always been a difficulty.

But besides the many sorts of aberrations in the system that have developed over the years, it has served people, and all I'm saying is that before you shift from one system entirely into another you want to be very clear that you're doing it in a way that's coherent with the other reforms you're trying to bring about. So my argument would be that while we're doing all our work on prior learning assessment and trying to find new ways for adults to enter our system, especially immigrant adults who have found it very difficult to assess our system in the past, we would be very wise to make sure that whatever loans, grants, combination or contingent repayment plan you develop understands the reality of who is there and makes sure it's coherent with that. That's all I meant. I'm happy we're not just rushing into something without looking at the context of the other reforms.


Mr Daigeler: I'm just reviewing the groups that were participating in the consultation round on OSAP review, that first phase the deputy minister spoke about, and I notice that your council, the Council of Regents, was represented. Are you still involved in the ongoing discussions the deputy minister was referring to? Do you have a representative on the task force, or what is the link?

Mr Johnston: No. Since the first phase occurred, much of the other discussion did not include official council representation. I've been present at the deputy minister's policy meetings where the matter has been discussed, Jan Donio bringing forward matters of concern that were being raised at that time and that sort of thing, but we've not had an official presence on that task force since that first phase.

We're presuming that as we move further into an elaboration of a position -- and I'm not sure what the timetable of that is -- the council again will want to ask to be involved, and if it's not invited to be involved, we'll probably, as we have been proactively doing lately, be involving ourselves because of its touching interests of concern to the council.

Mr Daigeler: You mentioned some of the concerns that perhaps are more specific. I don't think they're exclusive to the college community but are more specific to the college community. You have more mature students, perhaps more part-time, the lower economic groups are more represented, and obviously those present special problems with OSAP.

From your knowledge, are you aware of any other problems in the OSAP delivery and OSAP program for the normal student at the colleges? What are the major concerns that have come up in the normal functioning, other than the ones you were referring to which relate to a change in, really, the population that's attending the college community?

Mr Johnston: It's hard to do this without being just totally anecdotal about it, but increasingly, as some colleges move to having programs start up at different times of the year to be much more flexible in terms of the way they're offering programs and not just to have everything go through the full year beginning in September, that tends to hurt students who are entering the system later on, depending on what the OSAP budgets are like that year. It also seems to be a problem for some students who are entering the system for shorter-term projects, and again, in the number of the areas of adult training that go on in the colleges tied to post-secondary, there's a fair amount of flexibility there which maybe is not as built into a loans and grant system as it might be.

I'm not sure I would be able to enunciate any other particular aspects of the college versus the university that it might apply to.

The Chair: There's still a bit of time, if you have another.

Mr Daigeler: I said I wasn't going to refer back to your previous existence, but of course you may still remember that one of the policy goals of the NDP used to be the total elimination of loans and a move to a grants-only program. Do you think that would still be a desirable objective?

Mr Johnston: I've of course lost all my previous memory and I can't recount --

Mr Daigeler: Do you remember this document here?

Mr Johnston: I would be happy to look at the document and check to see if that was the case. My difficulty on this is that my personal opinion as I come before the committee is secondary to that of my role as chair of the council and it's not appropriate for me to be expressing my own personal biases. I can try to convince council of those, as we proceed along. I think the obvious problem with going to a grants-only process is cost and getting bang for your buck, as it were. Some of the recent studies, out of the United States in particular, looking at the effectiveness of a grants-only program versus a loans mix in terms of access, have been fairly inconclusive about the effects of that for the cost of doing it in its entirety. I think it's something worth revisiting, as is almost any idea, and again, if you look at the kind of effect it would have on the present-day budget of a ministry like the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, it would be pretty staggering at this stage.

Mr Martin: I also would like to welcome you to the committee today, Mr Johnston. I want to revisit quickly with you the actual statement that comes to this committee for us to look at, which is, "The impact of a loans-only program on the system," and then it goes on to an examination of alternative student funding strategies. I think one of the focuses here is the loans-only piece of it and how that might be implemented.

I think you spoke of placing anything we do by way of OSAP within the larger context of how we do post-secondary education and the restructuring that may be going on. You spoke as well of the changing picture where it concerns the age and the makeup of the student population and part-time and all of that.

I know you spent a lot of time in your previous incarnation looking at the question of poverty. In the statement we have in front of us there is also reference to the impact of these changes on economic growth. Of course, all of us believe that economic growth is directly connected to people's ability to participate actively in the economy of the community they live in.

I would like to explore with you some thought on how we might connect people's present situation re the question of can they afford it or not with their ability to pay in the future and how we set up a system that somehow considers both of those and is fair. I guess the bottom line for us here is: How do we make post-secondary education more accessible for everybody concerned while considering both of those phenomena?

I'm not sure how specific I can be in terms of a question, but maybe if you could just take off from there and share with me some of your thoughts on how we might connect the situation of people today who find themselves not able to afford the post-secondary education they would like in order to be able to participate more fully down the line as accountants, doctors, barbers or whatever, and should there be some connection between both of them.

Mr Johnston: I think in principle there's nothing wrong with trying to elaborate a connection. I think, though, that in pursuing it one has to be very careful.

I'm always interested, when I look at the contingent repayment kind of notions, that they always presume that must be the only option. They always presume that you're going to get rid of grants entirely while you do that. When I look at that I say to myself that maybe we shouldn't look at it so completely divorced from some kind of grants directed maybe more particularly than ever at lower-income groups.

The reason I say that is that there are many studies that have shown there is a huge reticence among lower-income families to go into debt at all for education, especially if the period of time of the education is going to be protracted over several years, for instance. The whole fear of loan repayment is so large that it is, in fact, enough of a factor to stop people from going forward.

The other very strong influence is a family's predisposition around education: lack of self-confidence within the socioeconomic spheres. All of those kinds of things are so important that just having any kind of a major loans-only approach might, in fact, be a deterrent to some people.

Therefore, one of the ideas I would like to see us look at in the mix of these things -- and as I say, I'm very open to it; I just want to make sure it's congruent with other changes we're making -- would be an option which would include repayment being contingent upon your further income, but maybe with some kind of grant system being maintained to encourage those people who are not likely to take advantage of the program at all because of the loan stigma and the fear of debt.

If you look at the size of debt that can be accumulated these days at institutions -- more so at the university level than at our level -- it's a pretty terrifying thought to people who have been living on the margins of poverty as to whether or not they want to launch their careers into whatever, whether they think they're going to become lawyers, doctors or other highly paid individuals. It's a pretty major hurdle for them to jump past. I would just like us to look at some of the other sides of it as we go forward.


Mr White: I would like to refer basically to a couple of questions. Actually, I already posed to the deputy minister --

Mr Johnston: Do I have to be consistent?

Mr White: No, because I'll be addressing it from your perspective, a colleges perspective, not a university perspective.

The figures we have indicate that there is an increasing number of older people getting access to the OSAP program, and an increasing proportion of those people are women. So we are no longer talking about a situation such as we had 20 or 30 years ago where student loans were for 19-year-olds, but as much now for people in their mid-20s and mid-30s. It's my contention, frankly, that the system needs to be seriously reviewed so that it meets the needs of a changing population, that it meets the needs of people like myself who go back to school in their 30s and don't benefit from it.

Mrs Mathyssen: Their 40s.

Mr White: But seriously, the issue of family dependency I think is an anachronism. I would hypothesize that one of the greatest reasons there is that difference in terms of ages is because of the increasing use of colleges of applied arts and technology.

I would further hypothesize -- we don't have the numbers for last year; we do know that the system was used some 30% to 40% more than the previous year, no doubt due to the recession -- that the number of older students and the use of the college system were probably much greater last year than before. I wonder if you could comment on that issue in regard to the older students and their differing needs relative to the university students of 20 or 30 years ago.

Mr Johnston: I think your presumption is accurate. There was of course a pretty major increase in the student population in the colleges last year -- almost 10% -- and a concomitant increase, in fact a slightly higher increase percentagewise, in the take of the student loans. So you're absolutely right about it.

It's also true that perhaps some of us who are little older going back to school have been in debt so many times that we aren't quite as afraid of loans as others who are just starting off in their careers. So, again, I also encourage the government to look at rethinking the student loan process and to find ways other than the parental income model as the means of dealing with this.

I guess the counsel I'm trying to give at this point is that it might be wise to see part of that in a targeted fashion, and that it might be something to look at loans first, grants second rather than grants first, loans second, as we have seen since the 1960s as one of the options.

Then you can look within that at whether you want the loans portion to be contingent upon capacity to repay, and those kinds of concepts, or whether you want it done on a flat line version or whether you want a variable approach to that, again depending on your target group. I think all those things need to be thrown into the mix.

Mr White: What you seem to be emphasizing is the importance of making universities and colleges, particularly colleges in your case, accessible to people. I've mentioned perhaps that the program may be somewhat anachronistic relative to the family dependency issue and others.

We've had brought up a policy statement or a letter from our Colleges and Universities critic from some six and a half years ago. It might be somewhat anachronistic because it is looking at a utopia where it's an all-grant system, but it also states that "OSAP should be made to respond fairly and efficiently to the financial needs of Ontario's post-secondary students" and that this program should be made to do so by a number of different means. You mentioned the direct grants to low-income people, the reassessment, the eligibility issues. Does that not still seem to be a very prime goal for a loan system, that it should be flexible enough to meet the needs of college students, as it does with university students, from differing financial circumstances?

Mr Johnston: I think flexibility is the key, and fairness and equity as balancing principles of that, and I think that is an important thing to go after.

If you look at our student population and the cost to our system, one of the things that's run across my mind a fair amount lately is that if we have short dollars for student loans programs, should the government be looking at a very different approach to how it provides student loans and grants to people going into the private vocational schools and the private training sector, rather than those going to our public institutions? It is a matter I think needs to be looked at seriously. I think our college system has to look at the things it does and the things the privates do and whether or not there should be a different mix of those things.

There is some question in my mind about the payback governments get for dollars spent on private institutions, and people attending private institutions at very high costs, without the same kind of quality control checks, and accountabilities at least, that we demand of the public system. It may be another area where you want to look at different approaches to the grants-loans mix and other kinds of matters.

The Chair: Just a quick one and your 10 minutes will be up.

Mr Martin: Okay. I know you've always been sort of a gentle thinker and always had a million other ideas in your head, and we tend to be limited sometimes in our discussion here, but very briefly, there have got to be other creative ways out there of doing this, of skinning this cat.

I know of a community up north that needed a dentist and a doctor and wasn't able to get one to come up because the cost was so prohibitive. Finally, they went to the high school and found a couple of science teachers and asked them if they were interested. They said, "Sure," and the community paid their way. They came back and participated in the community and they are now practising there.

There is a kind of very, shall we say, specific élite grouping there, but is there any way communities could become involved more creatively in the support of folks who want to go to school and come back and contribute? In some instances now we are getting into co-op education where students are able to earn while they learn. Is that a piece of the puzzle too that we might be considering?

Mr Johnston: At our level it is a piece of the puzzle and a huge number of our students are involved in co-op learning at the college level or involved with some kind of placement process, if that's not seen as direct co-op learning experience and placement experience.

Another far-out kind of notion that might be looked at here is in terms of some of the work we're doing around standards now where we're going to be looking at outcome standards from our system and try to get that more standardized, if you will, across the entire province.

One of the aspects of this that becomes interesting is whether or not we want to look at more of the linkages between our training component and the colleges -- about 50% of our full-time students are in training programs, or slightly more than that actually -- and what they learn versus what we do in the post-secondary field. Maybe we should be looking at more modularized learning within the training side that can be used for credit at the post-secondary side. If we're doing that, maybe we want to have a loans systems, an assistance system, which is flexible enough to try to meet people's incremental incursion into post-secondary education.

A lot of our people do not come in as full-blown students right off the bat. They come in part-time, gradually get their confidence back about institutional learning and then go on in their third year to get a loan or a grant to complete the work they've been doing over the last number of years. Maybe we need something which is even more flexible in terms of assisting the part-time learner than we have presently, because I think there are a lot of people who slow down the amount of part-time work they do because of the effect of the economic circumstances they're under and because there's no particular assistance for them if they take that route.

The Chair: I realize that as you mentioned at the outset, the council has not recently really addressed this specifically, but from your own experience over the last year or so and what you saw in the system previously, a couple of things struck me in what you said. One is that probably the kind of system we would evolve would tend to be more comprehensive. It's unlikely that there is one route, be it grants or loans, or one thing that is really going to respond to the kinds of needs we seem to be identifying.

Second, are the needs for the college students versus the needs for the university students different enough that perhaps there needs to be, not necessarily two different systems, but should we be looking at whether those needs might really dictate different approaches? I don't want to put words in your mouth.

Mr Johnston: I think you're right, Mr Beer. What I'm trying to say is that the answer may not fall in either of those two approaches, but we should certainly examine those things as we go further. We shouldn't presume there is one prescriptive response for all, but it may turn out that the fairest and most equitable way, in the end, is a flawed system; not necessarily the kind we have now, but of some sort, because to be otherwise becomes too much of a cherry-picking kind of exercise where you don't have the consistency of application you really want. On the other hand, if we haven't looked at other ways of being flexible -- and the presumption is that colleges, universities and private institutions should all be dealt with in the same way -- then I think we will have missed an obvious opportunity at this stage as well.

The Chair: Just one final question: The deputy noted that in September it is their intention to present a proposal or proposals to treasury board. Will the council between now and then be addressing more specifically this issue, either in the context of the committee that is ongoing, or is there a working group that you've established? I just wondered what approach the council will be taking.

Mr Johnston: At this stage, the most I can say is that the deputy and I, in the 80 million times a week we seem to see each other and all the other things that are happening in the colleges' agenda at the moment, should chat about the best ways the council can lend its advice to the process.

There are a number of ways it could happen. It could happen as part of the ministry's process in a task force style approach. It could be after things have actually gone forward. The minister might ask us for private advice on this matter, and that would also be an appropriate way for us to go. It will probably be myself and an assistant deputy minister, as it has been for the Transitions dollars, but there will be a co-chaired approach to look at restructuring our system that will be launched in the near future. It seems to me that's within its context as well as another avenue for the council to have a say on financing of a system which, obviously, in an indirect fashion, also includes student assistance.

The Chair: Thank you very much for coming before the committee today.

Just before closing off, I would remind members of the committee that we will meet again tomorrow at 3:30 in this place, and that our first witness will be the Ontario Federation of Students. This meeting stands adjourned.

The committee adjourned at 1804.