Across the country, including in
Students are taking longer to complete degrees, working more to cover higher costs, relying more heavily on loans to pay for school and putting off major life decisions such as starting a business or having children.
The simplest solution would be to have fully funded public education with no tuition fees. Until that happens, however, we rely on student financial aid to make sure that those who don't have the money can still go to school.
Manitoba Student Aid (MSA), with a mandate to even the playing field for all potential students, is the main program of help for
To answer that, we need to see how MSA works with the Canada Student Loans Program to administer all public student loans in the province. Of any given loan received in a year, approximately 40 per cent comes from the provincial government and 60 per cent comes from the federal government.
The most recent MSA report examining the programs covers the 2011-12 year and raises red flags about the effectiveness of the current financial aid program and funding priorities.
The report states that, over the last decade, the number of
If we look at Manitoba Bursary, the largest provincial bursary program administered by the MSA, the number of students granted funding over the last decade increased by only 12.5 per cent despite an increase in the number of students in the program (up 20 per cent in 2012 alone). Despite the total increase in the number of students receiving bursaries between 2010-11 and 2011-12, there was actually less money spent overall on the program because the amount that each student received decreased by about seven per cent from previous years.
Even though total demand for student financial assistance had increased, there was less money overall within the bursary program, fewer non-repayable financial assistance and more loans distributed. A closer look at the 2011-12 operating budget for MSA reveals total provincial spending on bursaries hovered just under
While more and more students deal with higher levels of debt, we're spending considerably less on providing non-repayable forms of assistance.
Marginalized communities, including children of immigrants and First Nations, are debt averse, causing them to self-select out of post-secondary education and go directly into the workforce. The real choice for those who need financial assistance isn't whether to go to school, but whether to take a huge financial risk to do so.
We need a fundamental shift wherein we recognize student loans as the leading cause of student debt and commit to reinvesting and expanding a comprehensive system of non-repayable forms of assistance, such as bursaries and grants. At the very least, we must eliminate interest rates on provincial loans.
A similar change in priorities has proven successful in
By refocusing on non-repayable forms of financial assistance in
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