OTTAWA, March 22, 2017 /CNW/ - New investments for Indigenous students and expanded eligibility for federal student grants are among the changes students are pleased with in the 2017 budget, but concerns remain over the longevity of these commitments. Despite a significant focus on 'innovation,' the 2017 federal budget contains few bold or transformative ideas to improve access to and quality of post-secondary education in Canada.
"Since day one of this Liberal government, students have worked tirelessly to hold our Prime Minister and his party accountable to the promises they made to students and youth during the last federal election," said Bilan Arte, National Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students. "After leaving a crucial promise to Indigenous learners unfulfilled in the 2016 budget, new investments in the Post-Secondary Student Support Program announced today are proof that student action works."
The 2017 federal budget promises $90 million of funding over two years for the Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP), a federal initiative that distributes non-repayable financial support to Indigenous students attending post-secondary education. While this falls short of the government's 2015 election promise of injecting the program with $50 million of funding annually, it reflects the success students have had in demanding the Liberals keep their promise on the PSSSP over the last year.
The budget also expands eligibility for the Canada Student Grants program to more part-time students and those with dependent children beginning in 2018-19, opening up an important channel of non-repayable student financial assistance for students. Significant investments will also be made in co-operative education and work-integrated-learning programs at Canadian colleges and universities, but the governments' focus on programs in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields demonstrates a narrow understanding of innovation that leaves many students behind.
"Targeting funding for experiential learning in programs where significant opportunities already exist fails to leverage valuable resources towards finding and creating these opportunities for students in other academic programs," said Arte. "Innovation is an important and invaluable aspect of post-secondary education, but we must not allow it to become a buzzword that excuses the neglect of a higher education system that is inaccessible and unaffordable to millions of students."
The Canadian Federation of Students is Canada's oldest and largest post-secondary student organization, representing over half a million college, undergraduate and graduate students across the country.
SOURCE Canadian Federation of Students
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