NEW FEDERAL FUNDING SET TO IMPROVE STUDENT LIVES ACROSS CANADA

The Alma Mater Society (AMS) of UBC warmly welcomes initiatives announced in the 2019 Federal Budget that will provide improved repayment terms for student loans, new investments for Indigenous student access, work-integrated learning opportunities, scholarships and student mobility, and financial support for students with disabilities.

VANCOUVER, BC – On Tuesday, March 19, the 2019 Federal Budget announced a number of measures for the post-secondary sector focused on investing in student skills, reducing student debt, providing more work- integrated learning opportunities and improving post-secondary access for indigenous students.

Students have been consistently advocating for funding measures that address post-secondary debt for many years now.  The Budget announcement shows a direct response to these asks by lowering interest on student loans from prime + 2.5% to just prime and an interest-free grace period for new graduates and students who temporarily leave their studies to have a child or who facing health issues (including mental health). Such support keeps money in the pockets of many who feel the financial burden of getting a post-secondary education and goes a long way to showing students that there is a place for them in higher education in Canada.

Access to work-integrated learning is another issue that students feel strongly about and, in particular, students want more co-op, internship, and apprenticeship opportunities made available to improve the transition from university to the workforce. This should also be viewed as an investment in Canada’s future as it will equip more students with the skills they need to enter the workforce and fill the skills gap in the Canadian labour market. The budget reflects this thinking; with an investment of $630 million over 5 years that will create an estimated 84,000 new work opportunities for students across Canada. This not only presents a fantastic opportunity for students to apply their education to a working environment before they graduate, but is a true investment in Canada’s future.

“We’re incredibly excited about the 2019 Federal Budget, which incorporates funding measures that will make a real impact on student lives across Canada,” says Cristina Ilnitchi, AMS VP of External Affairs. “The budget crucially recognizes that the federal government must take action to lower the barriers for marginalized groups, create opportunities for students, and alleviate the difficult financial situations students face during their studies. We want to continue to see these important steps forward to allow for more student researchers to thrive from master’s and doctoral level scholarship awards, a smoother transition for students from university to the workforce, reduced debt burden, and more members of marginalized groups accessing and completing post-secondary education.”

The Federal Budget also places emphasis on support for Indigenous students, with $327 million pledged over five years for First Nations communities through expansion of the Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP). A further $126 million for an Inuit-led postsecondary education plan and $362 million for a Métis Nation-led postsecondary education plan will be available over the next 10 years.

For students with disabilities, the 2019 Federal Budget will more than double the funding available for specialized equipment necessary to access and complete their studies, lowering barriers and providing these students with enhanced support.

The announcement is a promising step towards affordable, accessible, and supportive post-secondary education, however there are still many crucial investments into post-secondary student support that need to be made. There must be continued work with Indigenous communities across Canada to better support them in post-secondary education systems. Further reforms to the Canada Student Loans Program is also needed to ensure affordability and access for all students.

The AMS looks forward to working with the federal government and other student unions to advocate for these changes to make post-secondary education more affordable, accessible, and supportive.