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Student Financial Assistance During COVID-19

Included in the demographics that are seeing livelihoods suffer due to COVID-19 is the post-secondary student body, which is having to adapt to the new realities of schooling from home and, more importantly, the pinch that they are feeling in the pocketbook due to the economic downturn of businesses that would normally employ recent graduates and returning students, but have pared back on hiring due to the pandemic.
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A young female student wears a mask to protect against Covid-19 as she prepares her home exams.

According to Canada’s Department of Finance, the number of post-secondary students from ages 15 to 29 in the workforce dropped 28% between February and March of 2020. In response, the provincial government of Alberta along with the federal government of Canada have implemented measures to mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19 on students and recent graduates.

Alberta Student Aid

Alberta Student Aid has provided several resources to help with students struggling with tuition, repayment, and various contingency costs such as technology to assist in adapting to remote learning. Eligible students can receive up to $3,000 in additional loans to cover such costs by submitting a request for review. It will not be necessary to supplement your submission with proof of expenses or loss of income, nor is it necessary to disclose receipt of federal COVID-19 benefits such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) or the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB).

Private scholarships are also available for eligible students, some of which have changed their requirements for qualification due to course interruptions. For example, rather than using a grade as a qualifying factor, students who have been awarded a “pass” may qualify (“pass” being a substitute for a grade in the event of a semester of interrupted study due to school closures). Some available scholarships include the Alexander Rutherford High School Achievement Scholarship (ARHSAS), and both the Rutherford Scholar and Dr. Ernest and Minnie Mehl Scholarship are available to those recipients of the ARHSAS. Students with a 3.2 GPA in the 2019 fall term and a “pass” mark for the 2020 winter term are eligible for the Jason Lang Scholarship.

Government of Canada Support for Students and Graduates

The federal government has also taken several measures in assistance for both students and recent graduates experiencing financial hardships due to the pandemic. Among these are the I Want To Help program, which aggregates information on service opportunities and means for volunteering and supporting young Canadians in accessing service positions.

The Government of Canada is also allocating $153.7 million to the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy to help young people attain skills and practical experience to help them transition into the labour market. Other federally-funded initiatives include $80 million for the Student Work Placement Program, $15 million for the Supports For Student Learning Program, and changes to the Canada Summer Jobs Program including increased wage subsidies, among many other initiatives. Further details can be found at the Canada Department of Finance Support for Students webpage.

For those students still enrolled in studies that need financial assistance, the Canadian government has recently enacted changes to its Canada Student Loan Program. The eligibility requirements for federal student loans have changed to accommodate students unable to find work in between semesters, or are otherwise struggling to make tuition payments by making students eligible for greater amounts and doubling non-repayable student grants for the 2020-2021 school year. The extension of the program is estimated to cost $1.9 billion and benefit more than 760,000 students. Other benefits include the Canada Emergency Student Benefit ($1,250 per month for eligible students who can neither find work nor qualify for the CERB), and the Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG), which can provide up to $5,000 to cover each student’s post-secondary education costs in the fall 2020 semester. Further details on these initiatives can also be found on the Department of Finance website.