The federal government announced new financial initiatives for part-time and mature students Wednesday.
Winnipeg South Liberal MP Terry Duguid unveiled Skills Boost, a plan initially launched Jan. 24 as a part of Budget 2017 by Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Patty Hajdu.
The program looks to introduce a three-year $287.2 million pilot project that will begin in the fall of 2018. The program includes new options that will allow students to continue receiving Employment Insurance (EI) benefits while enrolled in classes, and an additional $200 per month in top-up funding provided to students who have been out of high school for 10 years or longer.
Skills Boost also looks to recognize changes in financial circumstances of students by assessing grant eligibility based on the student’s current income, rather than the previous year’s earnings.
Duguid spoke at the Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology (MITT) to a group that included mature students and students with young children.
“All Canadians should have the opportunity to access the kind of quality post-secondary education that you are getting here at MITT,” Duguid said.
“Innovation is changing how we live and work today, bringing with it new challenges and new opportunities for working Canadians. Canadians’ skills need to match these changes.”
Skills Boost also introduced expanded eligibility for part-time student loans and grants for the 2018-2019 academic year, which looks to allow more students to benefit from student financial assistance.
Duguid also announced that the Canadian government will provide non-repayable grant support to an additional 13,000 students with children each year. He said a full-time student with children will receive up to an additional $200 per month per child, while part-time students with children are eligible for up to $2,000 per year in additional grants.
“This is a game changer, particularly for students who are often trying to improve their career prospects while continuing to balance their family responsibilities,” Duguid said.
These benefits are also “stackable,” meaning that low-income students returning to school with dependents could be eligible for more than one of the grants.
Sharlene MacCoy, a mature student at the U of M who recently moved a motion before UMSU council to create a mature students representative position, noted the unique financial and personal struggles adult learners face.
“Finding the money to get into university is incredibly challenging,” MacCoy said.
“We have to find ways to pay for school and continue to maintain our homes, pay for our cars, pay for daycare for our children, etcetera.”
MacCoy called Skills Boost a “great start.”
“There is always room for improvement,” she said, “but I’m excited and happy that more people like me will have the chance to return to school.”