A Step Towards Affordable Education

New provincial grant improves accessibility and universality funding for low-to-mid-income students  

Lena Orlova // Contributor 

British Columbia (BC) post-secondary students will access up to $4,000 in up-front, non-repayable education funds made available by the BC Access Grant (BCAG) starting Sept. 2020. The province hopes to alleviate financial barriers for low-to-mid-income students by investing in the new grant, restructuring existing grants and eliminating student loan interest. An average full-time arts tuition for a teaching-intensive university like Capilano University (CapU) is approximately $4,731 for 2019/20 year, not including the cost of rent, transit, groceries and other general life expenses. 

The benefit of the BCAG is two-fold. First, it’s non-repayable, extra cash that students can use to pay school or home bills. Second, the grant directly addresses accessibility of education because it broadens the scope of eligibility. “The new grants program is a program rather than a patchwork of grants,” said CSU Vice President of Finance and Services, Joey Sidhu. “Previously, they were offered to specific groups. Now, we are seeing a comprehensive needs-based grants program that carries on for a number of years [rather than on a year-to-year basis].”  

In the past, every student in a program longer than two years could access the Canada Access Grant (CAG), which applied on the federal portion of the Consolidated Student Loan. CAG made Bachelor’s-level students eligible for up to $3,000/year to help complete their education. Whereas funds from the provincial government would come from completion grants, which the new grant replaces. BCAG acts on the provincial portion of the Consolidated Student Loan. Students in programs of two years or less—like trades, certificates, diplomas, short-term specialized training and part-time students—can access up to $4,000/year. For programs two years or longer, BCAG may provide up to $1,000/year for funding in addition to CAG.  

The 2020 budget estimates that nearly 40,000 students in the province will benefit from the new grant, which especially impacts CapU students because the university offers a wide breadth of certificate and diploma programs. Moreover, the grant is a culmination of advocacy work done on the part of Capilano Students’ Union and other regional students unions—Langara, UBC and Kwantlen, to name a few. “Capilano has been involved with [the] Board of Directors with Alliance of BC Students, often our student executives will specifically run for the Board,” Sidhu said. “Additionally, we provide support in terms of bringing students from our Board to the lobbying dates.” 

Education is a hefty investment, difficult to avoid in the face of rising expectations from the labour market. Based on a media release from the Ministry of Finance, “77 per cent of all job openings over the next 10 years will require post-secondary education and training.” Therefore, providing additional funding for education is in line with preparing students for the future labour market. Students do not need to apply separately for BCAG. Through StudentAidBC, every student will be automatically assessed for the grant at the time of their application for student loans. 

For additional financial education, resources and current news on funding options, students are encouraged to speak with CSU leaders and staff. Online resources can be found at StudentAidBC, StudentAid Canada, and in online student forums. 

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