Provincial, federal budgets promise student funding

Federal budget marks $800M for post-secondary institutions, but schools won’t see cash until 2008

Last week’s federal budget promised $800 million for post-secondary education to all provinces, but institutions won’t see that money until the 2008-09 fiscal year, after intergovernmental talks in 2008.

Principal Karen Hitchcock welcomed the promise of additional funds especially because Ontario has the lowest per capita funding in the country.

“It was a step in the right direction,” she said. “The commitment is wonderful to see, and we have to be sure that the $800 million is there to add to the resources to meet enrollment pressure and enhance the quality of education.”

In addition to fortifying undergraduate education, the federal budget pledged $35 million over the next two years, and $27 million each year thereafter to support an additional 1,000 students through the Canada Graduate Scholarships.

Ontario will receive an extra $170 million in extra funding and an expansion of graduate spaces by 12,000 students, a measure Principal Hitchcock said will strengthen the graduate programs offered at Queen’s.

“It will enable us to provide a competitive funding package for our students,” she said. “We are hoping there will be additional dollars, because increased enrolment in any program requires additional faculty and facilities.”

Chris Bentley, minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities, applauded the funding Ontario received for higher education.

“I think it’ll build on the Reaching Higher plan’s success,” he said, referring to the $6.2-billion plan the Ontario Liberals announced last spring that will last until 2010.

“We have higher-quality education, and more students receiving grants. There are additional opportunities to do more.” To ease the financial strain on students, the provincial budget—also announced last week—promised $580 million in student financial aid distributed through the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) in 2007-08.

“We want to make sure all students have the opportunity to pursue post-secondary education, and we’re investing to improve the quality of education students receive when they get there,” Bentley said.

Paris Meilleur, Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) president, said that even with financial assistance programs in place, there are other issues preventing students from pursuing higher education.

Meilleur added that she wants to see early outreach programs established to create opportunities for students from different backgrounds.

“There is both a cultural and social need for mentorship and tutoring,” she said. “Let’s develop grassroots solutions.” Finance minister Jim Flaherty could not be reached for comment.

What the federal budget promises students

  • $800 million per year, beginning in 2008–09, for provinces and territories to strengthen the quality and competitiveness of Canada’s post-secondary education system. Federal support will grow by three per cent every year thereafter.
  • $35 million for graduate studies over two years and $27 million per year thereafter to support an additional 1,000 students through the Canada Graduate Scholarships.
  • Changes to the registered education savings plans (RESPs):
  • Eliminating the $4,000 limit on annual contributions.
  • Increasing the lifetime RESP contribution limit from $42,000 to $50,000.
  • Increasing the maximum Canada Education Savings Grant annual amount from $400 to $500.

Source: budget.gc.ca/2007/overview/briefe.html

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