The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a severe lack of jobs for students, who typically rely on summer employment to save up for the high expenses of next year’s tuition fees and other costs. Even if they can access the Canada Emergency Response Benefit or the Canada Emergency Student Benefit, the amount they receive is only enough to sustain them on an immediate timeframe (money for food, rent, and little else).
The Federal Government has recently announced plans to double the amount of money that will be available from the Canada Student Grant Program (CSGP) in Fall 2020. This additional money will certainly go a long way to support students and their families in accessing post-secondary education when we head back to school. In BC, the newly-created BC Access Grant provides non-repayable aid for students as well, and in many cases it can be accessed by those who don’t qualify for the CSGP because of their program (trades or 1- and 2- year programs, for example).
Our Chairperson Tanysha has written a letter to Finance Minister Carole James, asking that the BC Government work alongside the new federal measures and provide more funding to the BC Access Grant for Fall 2020. The content of the letter is below, and the formal letter can be viewed here.
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I am writing on behalf of the more than 170,000 members of the British Columbia Federation of Students. We are a provincial students’ organization which represents students at 15 post-secondary institutions in all regions of the province.
I would first like to commend the actions of your government for your response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We appreciate that these are unprecedented times. People from all walks of life have been impacted emotionally, physically, and financially. The swift implementation of public health- measures demonstrated leadership, as did your swift action on providing a variety of economic supports for British Columbians in this trying time. All British Columbians have benefited from the government’s decisive action.
Post-secondary students and their families are facing unique challenges in these times and those challenges will continue not just through the summer months, but throughout the upcoming academic year. Whereas co-op programs and summer jobs opportunities were in abundance in our province mere months ago, we are now facing a dilemma that will impact students and their families for the rest of the year, if not beyond. As a result of COVID-19, students are experience of having the financial resources to support themselves, let alone to start saving for the next academic year.
Without the ability to gain a secure meaningful and steady employment students and their families will be unable to afford tuition fees, rent, and other necessary bills, further limiting the accessibility to post-secondary education for thousands of British Columbians.
In Budget 2020, your government created the BC Access Grant, the first of its kind in over twenty years, which will open the door for many British Columbians who previously have not had access to post-secondary education before. The Grant is an incredibly valuable program, and in normal times
It would assist greatly in helping learners access education and attain their educational goals and enter the job market without being burdened with as much debt. However, we are not living in normal times. This upcoming fall, students will need extra help.
On April 22, the Federal Government announced an increase in funding to the Canada Student Grant Program for the 2020-21 academic year. While this funding will provide welcome relief for many, the CSGP isn’t accessible for students in many programs, such as trades and diploma programs. As you know, the BC Access Grant helps to fill the gap in financial aid, aiding those left behind by the federal program.
We hope that the BC Government will work alongside these new measures and provide more funding to the BC Access Grant program. It seems likely that many classes will be conducted online this upcoming fall, just as the last five weeks of this term were and the upcoming summer terms will be. While necessary, this approach creates a unique set of potential expenses such as upgraded internet services, new electronic devices, and ergonomic workspaces which previously have been widely available on campuses or in the community. These new burdens are only exacerbated in rural and northern communities as they already face accessibility issues in the best of times.
In an economic downturn, education becomes a great opportunity for the government to retool and retrain British Columbians that will positively and directly impact the rate of economic growth that our province will need following this pandemic. A skilled, responsive, and mobile workforce will benefit everyone and aid in the future economic flourishing of British Columbia.
For these reasons, we are asking for you to increase funding to the BC Access Grant program which will lead to a more accessible and impactful post-secondary experience for thousands of British Columbians across the entire province. The province would benefit immensely from such an investment by the government as the people are the economy and will assure the continued long-term recovery of British Columbia moving forward.
Thank you for your time and consideration.