Streamlining OSAP, simplifying the student experience

Woman at table typing on laptop

From tuition and financial aid to fees and incidental costs, many students struggle to figure out the actual cost of university. But U of T is implementing an online statement to make this process easier, helping students plan their finances and academic future.

In July 2018, students will have access to a simple snapshot of their net cost of tuition and fees in ACORN. The summary view will also show an estimate of the amount students will owe once they receive aid from the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP).

“This statement gives students easy access to their OSAP aid amounts,” says Farah Ally, Project Manager with Enterprise Applications and Solutions Integration (EASI). “It helps them know how much government financial aid they are eligible for before they register, and it gives them a comprehensive picture of the actual cost of their education before the start of the school year.”

The changes were mandated by Ontario’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, and EASI is partnering with Enrolment Services and others across the University to bring them into reality.

“Making these changes has truly taken a team effort. They don’t just affect OSAP administration, they  affect business processes within Enrolment Services, Student Accounts, EASI, and the academic divisions,” says Donna Wall, Director, Financial Aid & Awards at Enrolment Services. “It was important to have expertise at the table from all of these areas.”

Wall also participates in a Council of Universities working group, which advises on this and other sector-wide issues.

As part of the Ministry changes, U of T and all other Ontario postsecondary institutions will directly receive students’ OSAP funds to apply against student tuition and other fees. This streamlined process will save students the extra step of paying their U of T fees after receiving their OSAP funding.

To make sure the changes will be effective, EASI’s User Experience and Process Design Team interviewed and conducted usability tests with students.

“We went through several rounds of testing with students to design something that works well,” says Laura Klamot, a User Experience Designer with EASI. “It’s an iterative process – we keep simplifying and refining the design to make sure we communicate the clearest possible information to students.”

And in July 2018, students will benefit from that design.

“When I receive OSAP it can be difficult to get a realistic estimate about the cost of attending university,” says Ibraheem Aziz, a third-year Rotman Commerce student. “It will save so much time to see all information in one location at the same time.”

Ally agrees.

“We want students to be focused on their academic studies, and anything we can do to make financial planning easier for them is a priority for us. This is an exciting initiative that will help to provide clarity and transparency about the out-of-pocket cost of tuition.”