Victoria —The BC government’s 2020 Budget has students and educators celebrating the introduction of an up-front, needs-based student grant program. The BC Access Grant is the first of its kind in BC in nearly two decades, and will help reduce student loan debt for thousands of British Columbians every year.
“With tuition fees at an all-time high, student debt in BC continues to grow as students and their families struggle to afford the education they need to enter the workforce,” said Tanysha Klassen, Chairperson of the BC Federation of Students (BCFS). “The BC Access Grant will help students access not only four-year programs, but certificate and diploma programs that are key for many aspects of the workforce.”
The BC Access Grant will be $41 million annually, which is projected to assist 40,000 students each year; it will be funded through a combination of reinvestments of existing assistance measures and new investment of $24 million over three years. Complementing the Canada Access Grant, the BC Access Grant will ensure eligible students receive as much as $4,000 in non-repayable financial aid in each year of their studies.
Student debt in BC has risen 88% since 1999, and the average student loan balance upon graduation is over $30,000. A recent study showed that student debt holds young people back not only professionally, but also in other important ways: because of rising debt, recent graduates in Canada are delaying major life events like getting married, buying a home, or starting a family.
“The faculty and staff who work at BC colleges, institutes and universities see the financial stress students are under. Educators want students to succeed and this up-front grant will make a big difference for the low and middle income learners who need help,” said Terri Van Steinburg, President of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC. “An affordable, accessible, post-secondary system benefits everyone in our province. Today’s announcement adds to measures like tuition-free adult basic education and tuition waivers for former youth in care which have truly changed students’ lives. That’s the power of post-secondary education, and investments in expanding those opportunities.”
Through the BCFS, students have long sought student debt relief, focusing on the elimination of interest on student loans and the creation of needs-based grants. In its 2019 Budget, the BC government eliminated interest charged on the BC portion of student loans. The change announced today will further reduce financial barriers to education, helping more people access the training they need to get ahead.
The BC Federation of Students represents over 170,000 students at 15 universities, colleges, and institutes in every region of BC. The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators represents 10,000 educators in colleges, institutes and teaching universities in BC.