Feds follow through with new student funding plan
Keila DePape, CONTRIBUTOR
An anticipated federal budget promise has come into effect, meaning greater funding for student aid will replace certain student tax credits.
As of Aug. 1, qualifying low and middle-income students can receive up to 50 per cent more in non-repayable grants than they could last year. Grants are a form of student aid that you don’t have to give back.
The Liberals presented the plan in the annual budget in March. It’s intended to lessen the burden of student debt and balance rising tuition costs with government assistance.
Adam Taplin, the Red River College Students’ Association president, agrees it’s time for a change.
“This is a great step in the right direction,” Taplin said. “It’s been seven years since they did anything to increase grants, so it’s about time. But there’s still a long way to go.”
The average Canadian graduates $28,000 in debt, according to the Canadian Federation of Students.
Lidia Bahadori, a first-year graphic design student at RRC, said the increase brings relief to stress.
“It’s hard to afford school while living on your own without any family support,” Bahadori said. “College just wouldn’t be possible without student aid. This makes a big difference.”
For full-time programs, the maximum benefit for low-income students jumped to $3,000 from $2,000, while for middle-income students it rose to $1,200 from $800.
How the government classifies students varies by income, province and family size. To see where they stand, students can check on the Government of Canada website.
Grants are for students enrolled in programs at least two years long. This excludes some RRC programs, including aerospace manufacturing and deaf studies.
But not everyone is interested, even if they qualify.
Megan Ross received student loans while attending the University of Manitoba. She’s now a first-year business administration student and said she won’t apply for student loans a second time.
“I’ll have less to pay off in the long run, even though it’ll be tough with school,” Ross said. “I’ll take time off work if I have to, then hope I earn enough money for next year’s tuition.”
To offset the cost of funding more students, the Liberals are eliminating what they call “poorly targeted education and textbook credits,” which allowed students to claim a percentage of their living expenses and textbook costs.
The 2016 budget also proposes income and financial assets no longer be assessed for grants.
Instead, there will be a flat-rate contribution for all students, which means student aid won’t decrease with more money earned. The Liberals have not said how much this contribution will cost students.
Students can see if they’re eligible for a grant by applying for a Canada Student Loan no later than two months before the end of the school year. If they qualify, they will be automatically assessed for a grant.