Paying for College: Tuition and Financial Assistance

A college education in Ontario is one of the most cost-effective means of acquiring the skills and knowledge you need to have a prosperous and rewarding career. As you start out on your chosen career path, it's important to have a realistic set of expectations regarding the expenses associated with attending college.

Although college tuition costs are typically lower than university costs, there are variations from college to college, from program to program and between the different types of college programs. In addition to your tuition fees, you will also need to budget for books, supplies, housing and other related living expenses.

You may be able to supplement your own income and savings with scholarships, bursaries or loans. It pays to do some research into what types of financial assistance you may qualify for.

Average cost of tuition for one academic year in an Ontario college program:

  • Diploma Programs - $2,400
  • Graduate Certificate Programs - $3,600
  • Bachelor’s Degree Programs - $6,100
  • Collaborative Programs - $5,000

You can also expect an average of $800 in ancillary fees (student activity fees, athletic fees, health insurance, etc.) and $1300 for books and supplies. Please note that these figures do not include living costs, such as rent, utilities and transportation.

Tuition for specialized programs may be higher. For example, programs that involve training on specialized equipment (such as heavy equipment operator or aviation) require college investment in this equipment, as well as in facilities and ongoing maintenance. These costs are often factored into tuition costs. Other programs, such as photography or fine arts programs, may require you to buy extra equipment or supplies on top of the cost of tuition fees, which can increase your expenses.

Check individual college websites for the exact fees associated with the programs you are interested in.

Financial assistance for students can take the form of loans, bursaries, grants or scholarships. Loans must be paid back, usually once your education is complete, and often with interest. Bursaries, grants and scholarships do not need to be paid back.

Scholarships, bursaries and grants: Scholarships are usually awarded based on academic merit or other achievements, rather than financial need. Bursaries and grants are based primarily on an individual’s financial needs, but may involve other selection criteria such as extracurricular activities, community involvement and leadership. Contact your college's Financial Aid or Student Awards office to learn more about awards you may apply for through your college.

In addition to awards offered within the college system, there are many available through non-profit organizations, corporations and service clubs. The following links will help you research scholarships, bursaries and grants that you may qualify for:

Government Assistance: Ontario residents may apply for government loans, grants and bursaries through the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP). Canadian citizens and permanent residents may also qualify for loans and grants from the federal government. See the OSAP section below for more information on government financial assistance.

Private Loans: Many private banking institutions offer postsecondary education loans. These are very similar to other bank loans, in that the borrower is expected to make monthly interest payments. In cases where students are deemed ineligible for government student loans but still need financial assistance to cover the costs of education, private financing options can fill the gap.

The Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) is an integrated program funded by both the provincial and federal governments and administered by Ontario. OSAP provides needs-based financial assistance through grants and loans to help qualified students and their families with the cost of postsecondary education. Eligible Ontario residents may receive a combination of provincial and federal student financial aid.

OSAP is designed to supplement, not replace, the financial resources that you are expected to contribute to your postsecondary education.

OSAP offers both grants and loans to eligible Ontario residents in approved full-time and part-time programs of study. You only need to complete one OSAP application to be considered for a mix of grants and loans.

Go to the OSAP website to learn more.

If you need help with your application, the How to Apply for OSAP video provides a simple overview of the application process – how to register, apply, get your estimate, provide your supporting documents, check your status and get your funding.

Provincial assistance is available to help current and former Ontario Crown wards cover postsecondary application fees. The program reimburses the cost of applying to an approved full-time program leading to a first postsecondary degree, diploma or certificate program.

Click here to learn more about the Ontario Crown Ward Postsecondary Application Fee Reimbursement Program.

As a student, it is imperative that you budget throughout the academic year. By preparing and adhering to a budget, you will save yourself a lot of stress and anxiety. When you’re trying to focus on your studies, the last thing you need is to be distracted by financial worry.

The purpose of a budget is to give a clear idea of your current financial status. It will allow you to keep track of your spending, and it will help you determine where changes can be made in your spending habits to ensure that you are always living within your means. Most importantly, you have to be sure that your basic needs are covered. This includes rent, utilities, transportation, food, and any other basic living expenses.

For more information about budgetary best practices, feel free to explore the following external resources:

Most financial institutions also provide excellent online student budget calculators on their website. Visit your financial institution's website to see what tools they have for students.