Alberta post-secondary students pleased with ‘positive’ federal budget

EDMONTON — Alberta post-secondary students say the new federal budget will help student affordability and recent graduates navigate a rocky job market.

The federal budget, tabled Monday in parliament, makes several provisions for post-secondary students including waving interest rates on federal student loans until March 31, 2023 and doubling Canada Student Grants for two additional years.

Other measures include proposing to invest over $1.4 billion to help post-secondary students and youth participate in federal government-funded jobs programs and gain other internship, apprenticeship, and work opportunities.

Rowan Ley, University of Alberta Students’ Union vice president (external) said in an interview that the budget will help struggling students who are trying to get their first job post-graduation.

“Employment opportunities for recent grads and employment rates for recent grads have been considerably worse in this last year than they’ve traditionally been,” he said.

“If you miss an opportunity to get a good entry-level job in the first few years of your career it can be very difficult to recover. Having that big resume and experience gap can be incredibly challenging.”

Jason Roth, advocacy director with the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology Students’ Association, told CTV News Edmonton in an interview that the federal budget would be met positively by students.

“Extending interest relief until March 2023 is going to help a lot of students,” Roth said. “That is not a small measure.

“It is a fantastic measure.”

Roth added that the best part of the budget is that it will support students not just for the next six months, but will help increase student affordability for two years.

“These are all real, on-the-ground things that help students.”

Additionally, the budget proposes raising the threshold for student loan repayment assistance from $25,000 to $40,000. If passed, no one living alone earning $40,000 or less would need to make any payments on their student loans.

Over $708 million over five years would be invested to create at least 85,000 work-integrated learning placements. Another $470 million is proposed by Budget 2021 over three years to establish a new Apprenticeship Service to help 55,000 first-year apprentices in construction and Red Seal trades.

Budget 2019 introduced a six-month interest-free grace period for student loan repayment of graduates of post-secondary institutions to help them land jobs.

According to the federal government, waiving student loan interest until March 31, 2023 will help approximately 1.5 million Canadians and has an estimated cost of $392.7 million in fiscal year 2022-23.

INVESTMENTS WILL HELP STUDENTS AND RECENT GRADS CONTRIBUTE TO ECONOMIC RECOVERY

According to federal budget documents, the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely impacted young people.

“Young people have been isolated at a time of life normally marked by studying, vibrant and growing social lives, travel, and a variety of crucial work experiences that help them find their path.

“We cannot let them be a lost generation.”

For the federal government, young Canadians “must” be at the centre of economic recovery and the investments for post-secondary students will help the future success of the country.

Roth said the investments to help apprentices and create new internship opportunities will help students

“These are welcome measures that should help students get back on their feet coming out of this pandemic,” he said.

For Ley, the pandemic has seen the quality of post-secondary education decrease with online learning, yet the price continues to increase while employment opportunities dry up.

“I’m happy to see the federal government recognized what students have sacrificed,” he said. “This budget is quite generous to students.”

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