Too Poor for Post-Secondary, Too Rich for Financial Assistance

Allen Wolfe
Financial Aid & Awards Officer, Saint Mary’s University

Many students are stuck in the middle, too poor for post-secondary, but too rich for full financial assistance, which makes a difficult situation. This problem is plaguing millions of students and families across Canada and is due to a combination of issues; rising tuition costs, smaller pools of financial aid, and difficult financial assistance calculations that put the burden of paying for university on parents that cannot afford it.

In November, the Government of Canada announced that students would now have a fixed contribution towards their Canada Student Loan calculation. The new fixed student contribution, of between $1,500 and $3,000 per academic year based on their family income and family size, will provide students with the predictability of a fixed amount to contribute towards their education costs. The simplified fixed contribution will allow low and middle-income students to better save, budget, and plan for post-secondary. In addition, more students will be able to continue to work and gain valuable job experience without having to worry about a reduction in their level of financial assistance.

The only province in our region to make a student loan related announcement this year was the province of New Brunswick. They recently announced the rollout of Tuition Relief for the Middle Class program. This will help make post-secondary education more affordable and accessible for families with multiple children attending university or community college. The amount of tuition relief will change based on the size of the family to a maximum family size of seven. The amount of tuition relief also decreases as the student’s family income increases, until they reach the maximum income cut-off.

Institutions can do their part to help the students stuck in the middle by encouraging them to apply for financial assistance. There is a historical stigma attached to student loans and even though there have been significant changes that have been taken place and that there are many advantages to the program, many eligible do not apply. We can also direct students to apply for external scholarships using scholarship databases like Yconic, Universities Canada and Scholarships Canada. These databases help students gain access to millions of dollars worth of awards. Sometimes it only takes an hour of work to apply for an award!