Student Aid Report Sees Progress – But Not in BC

BC Hits Bottom, Manitoba is Tops


British Columbia is swimming against the tide when it comes to student financial aid. That is one of the findings of a report released October 22, 2008 by the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation.

In general, the Foundation's report, Ten Things You Need to Know About Financial Support for Post-Secondary Students in Canada, paints a fairly positive picture of recent trends in Canada's student financial aid system.

The report cites "an important shift in the way student financial aid is delivered," finding  most regions have reversed course from previous funding cuts to grants and other need-based non-repayable aid. Those cuts were followed by soaring student debt levels.

However, the report found that BC has moved in the opposite direction. BC cut its grants proportion to less than half during the years between 2004 and 2007.

The result? BC's proportion of non-repayable aid has now fallen far below Canada's average. In fact, BC now ranks at the bottom, with only 12 percent. That means BC's needy students must pay loans with interest charges for a whopping 88 percent of their student financial aid.

Manitoba tops the charts, with 48 percent of need-based aid now non-repayable.

Need-based aid is meant to help students who would not otherwise obtain an education. Thanks to the recent changes in Canada (BC excepted) the proportion of need-based financial assistance that does not have to be repaid has doubled from what it was 15 years ago. It has now risen from 15 percent to 30 percent.

Norman Riddell, Executive Director and CEO of the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation, welcomed an improved "quantity and quality" of need-based aid in most of Canada. However, he stressed that government spending on student financial support still needs to become more effective. The report documented heavy government spending on tax-based aid that has failed to improve educational access for needy students.

"Given how greatly the future of our country depends upon widening access to post-secondary education, governments should do more than just ensure that need-based aid keeps pace with inflation," said Riddell.

The priority now, Riddel said, should be "improved support to students from low-income families or with high levels of financial need, rather than spending even more on tax measures that tend to benefit those who can already afford higher education."

Read the Full Report:

Ten Things You Need to Know About Financial Support for Post-Secondary Students in Canada