Harper beefs up student grant eligibility

Apr 7, 2015 | News

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced an expansion of eligibility for the Canada Student Grant Program Tuesday. (Courtesy PMO)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced an expansion of eligibility for the Canada Student Grants Program Tuesday. (Courtesy PMO)

By Ian Burns

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced an expansion on Tuesday of eligibility for the Canada Student Grants program, which he says will help tens of thousands more students with their education in this country.

“We all understand how important education is,” he said. “But we also recognize that it is financially challenging.”

Harper made the announcement in North Vancouver.

The Canada Student Grants program offers aid for low- and middle-income students, as well as students with disabilities, according to a Government of Canada website. Unlike a loan, it does not require repayment.

Currently, a student has to be enrolled in a full-time program of at least 60 weeks in duration at a designated post-secondary institution to be eligible.

“That leaves out an increasing number of training courses that, while shorter, still prepare a student for a job that’s available now,” Harper said.

The PM announced that students in programs with a minimum duration of 34 weeks would now be eligible for grants.

By expanding eligibility, “Canadians across the country will have more access to the skills and training they need to get good jobs and succeed in the job market,” Harper said in a statement released after the announcement.

According to the government, the expansion would help approximately 42,000 additional students per year, including approximately 22,000 students at private career colleges, to access grants.

The program will expand in time for the 2016-17 school year.

The announcement was met with a positive response by Colleges Ontario, an advocacy group for Ontario’s 24 colleges of applied arts and technology.

“It’s important to ensure support is available to help people enroll in training programs that lead to rewarding careers,” Rob Savage, Colleges Ontario’s director of communications, told Humber News in an email interview.

“We’re pleased to see the government has announced new measures to help more students get access to career-specific training,” he said.

“Ontario is committed to ensuring students having access to a high-quality postsecondary education, based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay,” Belinda Bien, press secretary for Ontario Training, Colleges and Universities Minister Reza Moridi, told Humber News.

“In 2013-14, Ontario issued over $1.3 billion in grants and loans – 70 per cent of this assistance is money that students will not have to repay,” she said.