Premier John Horgan’s announcement of an infusion of funding into graduate scholarships, research projects, and co-op opportunities in the tech and development sector is welcome news to current and aspiring students in BC. The announcement, made yesterday at the #BCTECH Summit, commits over $125 million towards these initiatives.
“Students have been calling for a provincial funding strategy for graduate students other than the student loan program for many years,” said Aran Armutlu, Chairperson of the British Columbia Federation of Students (BCFS). “Graduate studies are the key to pushing innovation forward in our province. Ensuring that it is accessible and affordable will continue to attract students from across Canada and beyond.”
British Columbia has the third-highest tuition fees for graduate programs in Canada, yet most graduate students have few options for financial assistance except student loans. The debt for the average master’s student upon completion in BC is $29,300.
The scholarship funding is targeted exclusively to the science, tech, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs which will help propel that field forward, but doesn’t address the wide breadth of graduate programs in BC left without scholarship funding. In the 2017 election, the BC NDP promised a $50 million graduate scholarship fund. This announcement is a step towards making this fund a reality but will miss the mark over the course of this government’s mandate if more funding is not added.
“Twelve million dollars in scholarships over three years is welcome assistance to hundreds of future graduate students in BC,” said Armutlu. “But this is only a three-year commitment; BC needs a permanent scholarship fund or grant program to invest in graduate research and training for many more years to come.”
The government’s commitment to eliminate interest charged on student loans will further ease some of the burden of debt for graduate students. While the interest rate was reduced to prime in summer 2017, students continue to call on the government to follow through on the promise.