The USC is praising this morning’s announcement by Canadain Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who introduced a comprehensive $9B financial support package for Canadain post-secondary students.
“Today’s annoucement marks an unprecedented investment in student financial support,” said USC Vice President Cat Dunne, “we are truly ecstatic about what this means for students who were in a desperate financial situation until today.”
Dunne explained that the USC has been advocating to the federal government alongside UCRU, the Undergraduates of Canadian Research-Intensive Universities, since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March. UCRU represents over 250,000 Canadian university students in U15 schools across the country.
Earlier this month, Dunne spearheaded a student survey to understand the financial impact of COVID-19 on post-secondary students. The survey received over 3000 responses and the findings were startling: 73% of students were worried about making summer rent and utility payments while 79% were worried about paying for Fall tuition.
The stats from 350 Western students who responded were even worse. Nearly 60% of students were still looking for summer work or had their contract cancelled due to COVID-19. A whole 79% were worried about immediate-term payments and only 15% would have qualified for the existing Canada Emergency Response Benefit – the government program created to provide income support to Canadians who lost their job due to COVID-19.
“Our survey showed that existing government programs were not providing sufficient support for students and hundreds of thousands across Canada would be in a dire financial situation when the Winter Term concluded at the end of April,” said Dunne.
So for the past month, Dunne and her colleagues from eight other large universities across the country have been advocating to politicians and staffers for a program that met the needs of students. They released a report last week outlining their survey findings and recommendations.
The package announced today closely mirrors UCRU’s recommendations. It includes:
- Canada Emergency Student Benefit: $1250 per month for eligible students and 2020 graduates who are earning less than $1000 per month and were a post-secondary student in December 2019
- Canada Student Service Grant: up to $5000 tuition grant for students who volunteer in their community throughout the summer
- Increased Fall Financial Aid: doubling of Canada Student Grants for eligible students, relaxed eligibility for financial aid including the elimination of expected student contribution, increased Canada Student Loan limit, and increased support for Indigenous students
While the package does not include eligibility for students to the existing Canada Emergency Response Benefit – valued at $2000 monthly – Dunne explains this package is a better deal for students.
“Taken together, today’s package offers comprehensive financial support for students. It guarantees immediate income support at $1250 per month for eligible students to cover rent and grocery bills and up to $3000 in new tuition grants for qualifying students in the fall. Additionally, students can still earn up to $1000 per month in part time work and if they volunteer over the summer, they could get up to $5000 in an additional tuition grant in the fall. We really think this package meets the needs of students today and in the coming months.”
Earlier this month, the USC also contributed $100,000 from surplus funds and cancelled event expenses to Western’s Student Relief Fund – another option for students to turn to who are in need of immediate financial support over the summer.
More details are expected in the coming days on how exactly students will apply to the new government programs.
Dunne emphasized the USC’s appreciation to the federal government for listening to the voices of students across the country and highlighted the importance of student leaders and government advocacy.
“I think today really proves that advocacy truly does work,” she said.