In an effort to meet growing labor market needs with a cohort of new graduating students, the province is launching a financial aid program for low-income students enrolled in what it has identified as “high-demand programs.” “.
At a press briefing at Bow Valley College on Wednesday, Higher Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said the Alberta government will invest $15 million over the next three years to support the New Beginnings Scholarship. , a one-time, non-refundable financial grant.
“We are indeed opening new doors and creating a level playing field where Albertans have equal access to education and opportunity,” Nicolaides said.
Beginning in the 2022-23 school year, 1,000 students per year will receive financial aid of $5,000 over the next three years.
Recipients will be automatically selected for the scholarship through the province’s student loan and student aid systems.
Eligibility criteria will be based on the student’s family size and income. For example, a single person with no dependents would need to demonstrate an annual income of $33,000 or less to qualify, but a family of four would need to demonstrate a household income of $66,000 or less to qualify, Nicolaides said. .
The scholarship will be made available to students enrolled in programs such as energy, technology, aerospace, aviation and finance – sectors in which there are “strong labor market needs”, it said. Nicolaides said.
“To determine which programs the scholarship is available in, we considered labor market data, industry needs, retention rates in the province, and student demand,” he said. he declares.
More challenges for students
Nicole Schmidt, president of the University of Calgary Students’ Union, said while the scholarship is a positive step forward, it is not enough to provide meaningful support to the general student population, given the rise tuition fees and recent overall funding cuts.
“The provincial government has cut $600 million from post-secondary education over the past few years, and a $15 million investment, while much appreciated, is a drop in the ocean,” Schmidt said. .
Schmidt said the university had recently approved proposals to increase tuition for engineering and medical students — the extra costs have been exacerbated by the province’s lack of a student jobs program, which ended in 2019.
Schmidt added that she doesn’t think the scholarship should depend on the type of degree a student chooses to pursue.
“If a student is accepted into a program and demonstrates financial need, what they choose to study should not be a barrier or factor in receiving funding,” Schmidt said.
“It is disappointing to see the government picking winners and losers by only making students and certain programs eligible for this funding despite financial need.”