New federal government grant for mature students, EI flexibility applauded

The federal government announced a new $1,600-grant geared toward adults returning to school on Jan. 24 and students are welcoming it with open arms.

Brianna Workman, vice-president education of the St. Thomas University Students’ Union, said she was pleasantly surprised by the announcement.

“Being a pretty traditional university student myself, one that came right out of high school, I can’t even really imagine the difficulties that they face as a mature learner,” Workman said on Friday.

“So any type of support the federal government can give them is very welcome and very appreciated.”

On top of receiving an additional $1,600 per year, students will no longer lose their employment insurance benefits upon returning to school.

Eligibility requirements for Canada student grants will also be changing. The government will now assess students based on current income rather than last year’s income to calculate eligibility for those whose earnings may have changed significantly.

Canada student grants have doubled in amounts-per-year recently, bringing them up to a maximum of $2,000 per student. Workman said because this grant for mature students falls short of that, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations will be monitoring the program to see if an increase needs to be requested in coming years.

The federal government announced a new $1,600-grant geared toward adults returning to school on Jan. 24. (Caitlin Dutt/AQ)

“We’ll have to see and keep in touch with mature learners on our campus and see how they’re finding the access to the bursary and how it is helping them,” she said.

CASA’s board chair, Shifrah Gadamsetti, said CASA is also pleased with the program — something that hadn’t even been in CASA’s lobby document for this year.

“Adults are often deterred from returning to studies due to the significant time and financial investments required, obligations to family, and the fact that there is no guarantee these sacrifices will pay off,” Gadamsetti said is a press release.

“We are hopeful that this new grant will help make returning to school more feasible for adults with families and other financial obligations.”

Workman said the announcement came at the perfect time, following the provincial government’s Jan 18. announcement on child care support. Families with children 5-years-old and younger attending a designated N.B. daycare will not pay more than 20 per cent of their income for child care.

Because mature students have a whole world of different barriers than the average-aged student, Workman felt optimistic about these new programs. She said CASA will continue to keep an eye on them to see how they unfold in students’ lives.

“We’re starting to see a lot of those be alleviated, or at least be slightly reduced, so I think this introduction, this grant actually ducktails really nicely,” she said.

Non-traditional student learners add all kinds of experience and vibrancy to our university community, especially with a community like STU where you get to have so many active discussions in classes … I obviously believe that anyone at any time should be able to access post-secondary.”

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