Alberta sets up bursary for low-income post-secondary students in high-demand programs
By Riggs Zyrille Vergara, Publishing Editor
Every year for the next three years, 1,000 low-income post-secondary students can receive bursaries valued at $5,000 each to help pay for their tuition, fees, supplies and living costs through a new funding program from the government of Alberta called the New Beginnings Bursary.
Students will benefit from the bursary in the upcoming 2022-23 academic year and will not have to be repaid as a typical loan would be. Students will also not need to worry about directly applying for the bursary as the recipients will be determined by the student loan and aid system in that certain year.
“Removing barriers to attending post-secondary education and creating opportunities will help Albertans find good paying jobs to support their families and build stronger communities right here in our province,” Demetrios Nicolaides, the minister of advanced education said in a press briefing at Bow Valley College announcing the new bursary program.
Rizchelle Teodosio, a business student from Mount Royal University says that if ever she receives this grant, it will ease her stress and worries about her loans and focus more on studying. “Tuition costs, fees, books, and the cost of living, in general, have been increasing consistently over the last years which has pushed me to take more student loans than I would like. It’s anxiety-inducing to think about graduating from university and being in thousands of student loans while looking for employment opportunities that are a good fit for my degree,” Teodosio adds.
But she also points out that with the rising tuition fees, this bursary might only be of little help to the general student population. “The government needs to make an effort also to impose a freeze on increasing tuition costs. It will only help approximately 3,000 low-income post-secondary students. This is only a small percentage of the post-secondary students who need financial support,” she adds.
Eligibility for the New Beginnings Bursary is based on the student’s family size and income. Nicolaides mentioned an example from the same press briefing and said that, “for example, a single person with no dependent would need to demonstrate an income of $33,000 annually or less to qualify but a family of four can demonstrate a household income or less in order to qualify.”
“As students are increasingly becoming burdened by the rising cost of living, this investment in accessibility is appreciated and well-timed. This funding will empower students, providing opportunities for those who would have normally missed out. We look forward to further collaborating with the government to ensure affordable education is available to all students coming through the post-secondary system of Alberta,” Savannah Snow, the chair of Alberta Students’ Executive Council (ASEC) said in a press release about the bursary. ASEC is a provincial advocacy organization representing more than 100,00 students across the province.
The bursary is made available to students who are currently enrolled in programs related to energy, agriculture and forestry, tourism, culture, technology, aerospace and aviation, finance and financial technology. In choosing which programs to prioritize for this bursary program, the government considered labor market data, industry need, province retention rates and student demand.
Teodosio thinks that the government should add more to the list as she believes that this will only pressure students to pursue programs that are practical and in high-demand instead of where their interests lie. “The government needs to increase public funding for post-secondary education to make it affordable and accessible for everyone and not just for selected individuals.”
Teodosio also adds that students with programs related to healthcare should be included in the bursary. “I believe it is important that healthcare students are also supported if we want to protect our healthcare system which by now we know is vital to our economy.”