Published April 10, 2023

Liberals expand loans and grants in budget, but students hoping for more next year

Student organization says from food to rent, students are facing financial pressures

By Nojoud Al Mallees in Ottawa

This year's federal budget sets aside more than $800 million to expand loans and grants for the upcoming school year, but students are looking forward to permanent changes to financial assistance.

For the 2023-24 school year, the Liberals are planning to increase the maximum grants available to $4,200, up from $3,000. 

A temporary measure that doubled grants to up to $6,000 was set to expire this summer.

The loan limit is also increasing to $300 per week of study from $210.

Those changes are part of a set of affordability measures in the budget and build on the Liberals' move to permanently remove interest charges on federal student loans.

The government is also planning to increase the withdrawal limit on registered education savings plans for full-time students to $8,000 from $5,000, and to $4,000 from $2,500 for part-time students.

In the budget, the Liberals promised to "work with students in the year ahead to develop a long-term approach to student financial assistance."

Mackenzy Metcalfe, executive director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, said students need more support to keep up with the rising cost of living.

"We're working with different members of Parliament and stakeholders to figure out what this review is going to look like," she said.

From food to rent to tuition, Metcalfe said students are facing financial pressures.

Amid high inflation and interest rates, Canadians are grappling with rapidly rising grocery prices and shelter costs. 

A report from and Urbanation earlier this year showed the average listed rent for all property types in Canada jumped by 10.7 per cent in 2022. 

For the 2022-23 academic year, Statistics Canada says tuition costs rose in all provinces, ranging from an increase of 0.3 per cent in Ontario to 5.7 per cent in Alberta.

"It's just really important to know that students pocketbooks are being pinched, just as (all) Canadians are right now," Metcalfe said.

Aside from financial assistance, Metcalfe said the association was disappointed to see mental health funding was left out of the budget. 

"In all the conversations I've had from students from coast to coast to coast, the two biggest priorities that have been identified time and time again were student financial aid and student mental health," Metcalfe said.

In a mandate letter following the last election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tasked Mental Health and Addictions Minister Carolyn Bennett with introducing a fund for student mental health. 

The fund would go toward hiring counsellors, improving wait times for services and targeted supports for Black and racialized students.

Banner image: Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland delivers the federal budget in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, March 28, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 10, 2023.

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