Font size:

Contrast:

CALL TO ACTION: High cost to students of accessing education   

Call to action:

High cost to students of accessing education   

On top of tuition and living expenses, students with disabilities often have a number of additional expenses that increase the already high cost of accessing education. These can include psychoeducational assessments, therapy, academic coaches, adaptive and assistive technologies, alternative forms of transportation, mobility aids, and numerous other services and equipment that allow for students to fully participate in post-secondary education. At the same time, policies and funding opportunities are not currently structured to sufficiently support these students, so extra costs must frequently be paid for out of pocket. This places these students at a significant financial disadvantage relative to their peers.


Worksheet:

Select a format of the worksheet that works for you:


Action areas:

Increase funding to students by targeting HEI 

Post-secondary institutions offer numerous scholarships and awards, but relatively few are designated specifically for students with disabilities. Additionally, many of the other options require recipients to be studying full-time, which excludes students who are enrolled in a reduced course load for disability-related reasons.    

Example tactics: 

  1. Policy brief  
    Write a policy brief targeting HEI that outlines the accessibility issues associated with excluding part-time students from scholarships and awards.  
  1. Coalition building  
    Student groups such as the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Studies (APUS) and Students for Barrier-Free Access, both at the University of Toronto, are already doing campaigns and advocacy work in similar areas. Joining forces with them and supporting their work could have a larger impact than working on this issue alone.  

Reduce costs/barriers to students by targeting HEI  

In order to tackle the demands of academic coursework and clinical placements while also managing their disabilities, many students opt to complete their studies on a part-time basis. However, post-secondary institutions offer reduced tuition fees to students studying full-time, meaning that those studying part-time end up paying more for each course than their peers. As a result, the overall cost of completing their degrees is higher, and these students end up graduating with more debt. This is made worse by the fact that while in school, they may not be able to participate in paid employment to offset their tuition and living expenses, leaving them with an even greater financial burden upon graduation. Changing school policies and funding structures such that part-time and full-time tuition is the same per course would reduce unnecessary debt and make WIL a more viable option for students with disabilities, therefore leveling the playing field.  

Example tactics: 

  1. Policy brief 
    Prepare a policy brief targeting HEI that summarizes the accessibility issues associated with current tuition fee structures while making specific recommendations to promote equitable access to education.  
  1. Coalition building  
    Student groups such as the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Studies (APUS) and Students for Barrier-Free Access, both at the University of Toronto, are already doing campaigns and advocacy work in similar areas. Joining forces with them and supporting their work could have a larger impact than working on this issue alone.  

Accessibility services within post-secondary institutions do not currently receive enough funding to adequately support students with disabilities. There can be long wait times for appointments or processing documentation, and they do not offer all of the services that could help students to access their appropriate accommodations. For example, students must often navigate the high cost and inconvenience of obtaining necessities like doctors’ notes and additional documentation when they require accommodations beyond what they are automatically granted. If accessibility services received more funding, they could hire more specialized staff with the authority to complete assessments and provide accommodations as issues arise. This would reduce both the time and money spent by students who face unexpected challenges.  

Example tactic: 

  1. Policy brief 
    Prepare a policy brief targeting HEI that outlines how inadequacies with accessibility services can negatively impact students, recommending that a greater proportion of tuition and student fees be designated to increase their funding and therefore reduce costs/barriers to students.  

Increase funding to students by targeting the government and other sources 

In terms of funding for students’ accessibility-related expenses, there are currently two main options financed by the government. At the federal level, the Canada Student Grant for Services and Equipment for Students with Permanent Disabilities (CSG-PDSE) covers up to $20,000 per academic year. However, the eligibility rules are overly stringent, and a significant number of services and equipment do not meet the criteria. In contrast, at the provincial level of OSAP funding, the Bursary for Students with Disabilities (BSWD) covers a broader range of services and equipment, but it offers students only $2000 per academic year. This is a problem given that disability assessments, therapy, and ADHD coaches are only covered by the BSWD, but the cost of any one of these can exceed $2000. As a result, students cannot always afford to access all of the supports that would help them to navigate their post-secondary education.   

By increasing the provincial funding for the BSWD, students with disabilities would be able to access more of the equipment and services that are only covered under this bursary. Alternatively, by allowing coverage for more types of services and equipment under the federal CSG-PDSE, students with disabilities would be able to fully utilize its $20,000 of funding.  

Example tactics: 

  1. Policy brief  
    Prepare a policy brief targeting the provincial and/or federal governments that describes the inadequacies with current grants and bursaries while making suitable recommendations to promote greater access.  
  1. Coalition building 
    Organizations like Students for Barrier-Free Access at the University of Toronto are already undertaking campaigns related to other issues with these funding options, so partnering with them could lead to a greater impact on future policies.  

Reducing costs/barriers to students by targeting the government and other sources 

Students with disabilities who receive funding through ODSP face a number of policy-related challenges. In addition to offering insufficient monthly payments, ODSP policies typically limit the income that recipients are allowed to earn from paid work. While this does not apply to full-time students, those who need to take a reduced course load in order to simultaneously hold jobs can only earn $200 before half of their remaining income gets deducted from their monthly disability payments. Additionally, if students with disabilities seek full-time employment upon graduation, they risk losing their disability payments entirely, leaving them in a precarious financial situation. As a result, current ODSP policies make it difficult for students with disabilities to succeed both during and after their education.   

ODSP would be able to better support students with disabilities if it increased the monthly payments, changed its policies such that both full-time and part-time students have full income exemptions, allowed for higher incomes post-graduation, and offered a grace period in which people with disabilities can earn full-time wages while also receiving financial support.  

Example tactics: 

  1. Coalition building 
    While organizations like the ODSP Action Coalition are already advocating for changes in this area, they have a broader focus. Partnering with them could help to support their existing work while simultaneously advocating for policy changes that are student-focused.  
  1. Social media campaign 
    Drawing the public’s attention to the inadequacies of current ODSP funding structures and the harsh realities of those relying on these payments may help to put pressure on government decision-makers to change their policies.  

  


Toolkit

Select a format of the toolkit that works for you:

PDF


Tactics

1. POLICY BRIEFS   

“Policy brief is a concise, stand alone publication with a specific purpose to inform/advise a non-academic external audience of an issue that requires policy attention” (Policy Scotland, 2021). “A strong policy brief distills research findings in plain language and draws clear links to policy initiatives” (IDRC, n.d.)  

“Policy briefs typically include:  

  1. An executive summary  
  1. An introduction  
  1. An overview of the research or problem  
  1. An examination of the findings  
  1. A concluding section that explains the policy recommendations and implications of the research” (IDRC, n.d.)

How to write a policy brief:  

https://policyscotland.gla.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/TSRFWritingaPolicyBrief.pdf

https://www.idrc.ca/en/how-write-policy-brief#:~:text=Policy%20briefs%20are%20a%20key,clear%20links%20to%20policy%20initiatives

Additional resources about changing policy:  

   

https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/implement/changing-policies/overview/main

https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/S/2018/supporting-policy-making.pdf


2. COALITION BUILDING  

“A coalition is a group of individuals and/or organizations with a common interest who agree to work together toward a common goal. That goal could be as narrow as obtaining funding for a specific intervention, or as broad as trying to improve permanently the overall quality of life for most people in the community” (Community Tool Box, n.d.)  

“A coalition brings professional and grass-roots organizations from multiple sectors together,  

expands resources, focuses on issues of community concern, and achieves better results than any single group could achieve alone” (SOPHE, 2016)  

Resources about coalition building:  

  

https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/assessment/promotion-strategies/start-a-coaltion/main

https://www.communitycatalyst.org/resources/tools/roadmaps-to-health/coalition-building-and-maintenance

https://www.sophe.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Full-Resource-Guide.pdf

https://elearn.sophe.org/coalition-building-resources

https://www.ala.org/advocacy/sites/ala.org.advocacy/files/content/advleg/advocacyuniversity/speakout/Challenge%20Eight.pdf

https://commonslibrary.org/coalition-building-start-here/


3. SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGNS  

Social media campaigns can be a great way to spread awareness about social issues or recruit additional support for your cause.   

  

https://www.adobe.com/express/learn/blog/social-media-campaign

https://lah.elearningontario.ca/CMS/public/exported_courses/HSB4U/exported/HSB4UU03/HSB4UU03/HSB4UU03A05/_content.html