How Front End Financial Aid Works: And 4 Key Facts You Should Know

The calculation begins with your need for the 8-month school year. This is a standardized calculation: 1L students are expected to spend $10 000 on room and board, $2200 on personal expenses, and $1100 on books and supplies, regardless of how much they actually do spend.

The school then determines your assets. This is a combination of parental and spousal support, personal savings and capital, employment income, and government loans.

The school takes your need, subtracts your assets, and the remaining number is your unmet need. The school then gives you a bursary covering a percentage of your unmet need, and will cover the interest accrued on your ScotiaBank loan for your remaining unmet need. So, if Jane Doe in 1L has $50 000 of need and $20 000 of assets, she will have $30 000 of unmet need. If the Faculty covers 50% of her unmet need, she gets a $15 000 bursary, and a bursary covering the interest accrued from a $15 000 ScotiaBank loan.

Some little-known facts about the current methodology:

1. Parental income is always deemed, regardless of your age

As is widely known, the school considers a portion of your parents’ income above $65 760 as an “asset” regardless of whether or not they actually support you. There is an “age inclusion index”, which decreases the expected contribution of parents as a student ages. But even when a student is over the age of 40, the Faculty will still deem 25% of her parents’ expected contribution. This means that your parents are expected to help pay for your schooling until they make less than $65 760…or until they die.

2. The percentage of unmet need covered is dependent on your year

Rather than simply cover the same proportion of unmet need for all students, the Faculty divides the financial aid pot by year. It is unclear whether students in the same year all get the same percentage of unmet need met, but in 2011-2012 that appeared to be so. The 1Ls got 54% of their unmet need met, while the upper years got 45% of their unmet need covered. The logic behind the 1Ls needing more than the upper years is unclear, particularly given that 1Ls typically have savings and capital assets that they can liquidate upon entering the law school. In contrast, 2L students only have savings from the past summer, if they were able to find 1L jobs at all. Ultra Vires was unable to receive an answer from the Faculty as to why this policy is in place.

3. In a perfect world, you are still expected to take on $7300 of debt each year

Let’s pretend the financial aid pot doubled and the Faculty was able to cover 100% of your unmet need. If that happened, you would still graduate with $21 900 of debt. How? Because in order to qualify for financial aid, Ontario-based students must take on a $7300 OSAP loan. This loan is considered a part of a student’s assets, not part of her unmet need. Thus the Faculty does not concern itself with trying to cover that debt at all. The only way to graduate with less than $21 900 of debt is to live below your ‘need’, have greater spousal or parental support than is expected, or if OSAP gives you a bursary above your $7300 loan, which fortunately, it does grant quite frequently.

4. OSAP takes a large strain off the financial aid pool by continually increasing funding to law students

From 2005-2006, OSAP distributed $2 057 264 in loans and bursaries to students at the Faculty of Law. By 2011-2012, that number increased to $2 964 730, which is greater than the Faculty’s total financial aid pot.

OSAP gives law students a substantial amount in bursaries. Any money given by OSAP after the $7300 mark is automatically forgiven upon graduation. Given that OSAP does not consider parental income after a student is 4 years out of high school, almost all Ontario students at the Faculty of Law will qualify for OSAP above the $7300 mark, unless they have substantial personal assets. A quick run through OSAP’s aid estimator shows that a typical asset-less 1L would get $4100 of OSAP bursary this year even after making $10 000 over the summer.