Feds provide more money for low-income and disabled students

By Emily Senger

Post-secondary shareholders criticized the 2004 federal budget saying it fails to address immediate student financial issues.

Education-related highlights in the 390-page budget document released Tue., Mar. 23 include the introduction of a new grant of up to $3,000 for the first year of post-secondary studies for students from low-income families, increasing the student loan limit from $165 to $210 a week and a new Canada Learning Bond to provide up to $2,000 for children from low-income families born after 2003.

Canadian Alliance of Student Associations Communications Officer Michael Marin is disappointed by the federal budget’s failure to address tuition increases and permanent accessibility to students from low-income families.

"[The government] increased the loan limit but didn’t add more funding, which means that tuition will continue to increase," explained Marin. "Some of the initiatives would have been helpful if they were included in a more comprehensive strategy.

"The low-income grant was a step in the right direction. It helps get students in the door but it does nothing to keep them there."

Marin stated that while he was disappointed with the budget, he was not overly surprised.

"We told the Prime Minister when we met with him, [but] he’s been unreceptive [to lowering tuition]," he said.

Associate Executive Director for the Canadian Association of University Teachers David Robinson is also dissatisfied with the federal government’s failure to provide designated funding to decrease tuition.

"What we have to look at is the immediate problem of ever-rising tuition," explained Robinson. "A better solution would be the federal government providing transfer payments for post-secondary education and immediately freezing and eventually lowering tuition."

Students’ Union President Jayna Gilchrist believes it was an excellent step by the federal government to support low-income families and create grants for disabled students. However, much like the provincial budget, Gilchrist believes the increased loan limit drives students further into debt. In her opinion, however, the federal budget supports students more than the Alberta budget.

"Whereas the Alberta budget is more generous, I don’t like how they increased the student loan limit," said Gilchrist. "The federal budget tends to affect student more directly. In the federal budget, there is a grant for first-year students which is beneficial for those who wouldn’t take the leap into post-secondary."

Robinson feels first-year students from low-income backgrounds may not receive the maximum $3,000, depending on the tuition in their province and institution. He feels the grant also puts less pressure on the provincial governments to provide grants for low-income students.