The organizers of the Pan Am Games are so desperate for volunteers they’ve resorted to exploiting student debt to recruit for unpaid help.

As the cost of the games continues to rise, the committee has decided to fork out  $1.9-million for their volunteer program.

Who knew it would cost so much for free help? Speaking of free help, here’s something we all know: most people aren’t willing to give it.

The Games organizers’ simple solution? Dangle weak and insulting incentives, such as extended grace periods and exemptions from summer employment to struggling students on OSAP and hope they are desperate enough to take the bait.

The event runs throughout July and August 2015 and will require about 20,000 volunteers to carry out entry-level duties such as taking tickets, shuttling athletes and helping out at sporting venues.

So this is the bright idea conjured up by the Ontario Liberals: Target the students who rely on OSAP, tell them they don’t need to work in the summer (summer employment is an OSAP requirement) and give the struggling students an extra six months to pay off their loans. All of this in exchange for being a post-secondary-educated summer Pan Am slave.

The Liberals have framed this deal as the province’s attempt to give all students the opportunity to take part in the upcoming summer games.

David Peterson, the chair to the Toronto Pan Am/Parapan Am organizing committee, says the initiative is “creating a wonderful opportunity to encourage students across Ontario to get involved in the Toronto 2015 Games” and that the volunteers “will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play active, meaningful roles in the largest international multi-sport event Canada  and Ontario have ever hosted.

Come on. The sales pitch needs to be stronger. Now if interest rates were lowered, or additional government grants were provided to the volunteers, the offer would be more tempting. But after volunteering for 12-18 shifts, students on OSAP will still have to pay off the same amount of money. So why would they waste a summer performing menial tasks when they could work for pay, and make a significant contribution towards their OSAP loans?

It’s hard enough for students to swallow the harsh reality that, at some point, they may have to work for free to pave the path into their future careers. But working for free, in a field completely unrelated to their studies and will serve no purpose on their resumes, is just a slap in the face.

That’s what the Ontario liberals are doing to the working poor: slapping them in the face. But for students with tight budgets, the OSAP-Pan Am deal is the only opportunity for wiggle room when repaying OSAP loans.

This is a joint byline. Ryersonian staff are responsible for the news website edited and produced by final-year undergraduate and graduate journalism students at Ryerson University. It features all the content from the weekly campus newspaper, The Ryersonian, and distributes news and online multimedia, including video newscasts from RyersonianTV. also provides videos, images, and other interactive material in partnership with the School of Journalism.