March 20, 2019
OTTAWA – Reductions in student loan interest rates, funding for First Nations, Métis and Inuit learners, and an expansion of graduate student scholarships are among the measures with which students are pleased in the 2019 federal budget, but concerns remain over the continued lack of a bold vision for post-secondary financing to address record-level tuition fees and student debt.
Budget 2019 promises a reduction in federal student loan interest rates, averaging a savings of $2,000 per student over the length of the loan. It also introduces a 6-month interest-free grace period following graduation and for students on parental or medical leave. Moreover, students with disabilities will see expanded eligibility for loan forgiveness and non-repayable grants.
This budget also commits $327.5 million over five years for the Post-Secondary Student Support Program which funds First Nations learners, and an additional combined $487.5 million over 10 years for Métis and Inuit learner post-secondary access. Graduate students welcome an investment of $114 million over five years for Canada Graduate Scholarships and expanded parental leave coverage (from 6 to 12 months) for granting council-funded students.
“Among other recommendations, students have called on this government to invest in student loan interest rate elimination, Indigenous learners, and graduate students,” said National Treasurer Trina James. “While much of what is proposed in Budget 2019 does not go far enough, there is no doubt that the hard work of students has paid off.”
Despite many welcome investments, students are disappointed to see no core funding investment for post-secondary education to address the ever-worsening tuition fee and student debt crisis. While Budget 2019 introduced the Canada Training Benefit, which includes a $250 per year training credit for people aged 25-64 to apply to course fees at colleges, universities, and others, the funding allocated is insufficient.
“The Canada Training Benefit credit is yet another example of a piecemeal reform that fails to meaningfully address the national student debt crisis and skyrocketing tuition fees associated with education and training,” said James. “With average annual textbook costs alone in excess of $400, this investment, while better than nothing for mature students, fails to address the affordability crisis.”
Budget 2019 also saw significant investments in paid student work placements. However, it also sees the continued exclusion of international students from many student job programs and no introduction of public health access protections under the Canada Health Act for these students.