The Conservative government again has poorly re-packaged a Liberal initiative designed to provide financial assistance to students.
Much like 2007’s ill-advised changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program, the Conservatives’ new Canada Student Grants Program fails to deliver help to many of those who need it most.
In the Conservatives’ attempt to re-brand support for students as a Conservative ideal, the new grant system will allocate funding on an “income basis.”
In contrast, the Liberals’ Millennium Scholarship Fund (MSF) distributed funding on a “need basis.”
This change is subtle and is of some value, but overall it narrows the criteria for funding to a single, exclusive dimension.
For instance, under the MSF, grants were allocated on a formula that assessed all costs associated with attending school, including the cost of living away, books, tuition, and the resources available to the students, to produce “the need”—regardless of income.
The new program uses income as a single determinant, with a yet-to-be determined threshold value.
This will tilt the receipt of grants towards low-income families, but while doing so, will exclude numerous needy recipients from significant funding.
For example, of the students who have reached age 22 and are assessed independent of parental resources, the majority likely would qualify for a grant without consideration of other variables effecting their financial situation.
At the same time, a younger student’s level of income may disqualify them from funding, with no recognition of the fact that the student in question has to relocate from a small community like Fort Frances to a distant, larger centre, where their cost of living is greatly increased.
Here we can see that injecting additional candidates into the system who may not necessarily be in great need of funding can quickly deplete available funding for others, while students whose geographical location increases their need may be placed at a disadvantage because their income is not sufficient to qualify them for assistance.
When finance officials were pressed with this issue, they were unable to provide an answer.
We already are seeing less funding provided to student recipients because the new grant seeks to cover more students (albeit less effectively). The award amount will be reduced from the current $3,000 under the MSF to less than $2,000 under the new grant.
As your elected representative, I will continue to represent the best interests of students in our riding and work to improve opportunities for support.