The 2017 federal budget, released Wednesday morning, is the second budget of the Trudeau administration, and begins to see the realization of some of their campaign promises. While also containing overarching goals such as reducing the federal deficit by several billion, there are many more specific provisions that will benefit BC post-secondary students in tangible ways.
We’re delving into the changes that will affect students and education the most.
The public transit tax credit — which allowed for a 15 per cent non-refundable tax credit for the cost of public transit passes — is being phased out as of July 1, 2017.
The credit was applicable to both annual and monthly passes, as well as electronic fare cards.
This will cost each student that uses a U-Pass $17.10 more in taxes per year, based on a calculation that sees a UBC student getting the U-Pass for both the fall and winter terms (which comes at a cost of $38 per term or $76 per school year).
Although the AMS does not have a statement on this at this time, it acknowledges that this change could have a slight effect on overall affordability.
Financial assistance for students
Student loan assistance and relief is something that the Trudeau government has been placing an emphasis on. In particular, the focus is on students that may be facing added barriers in getting education such as mature students, students with dependents and Indigenous students.
In November 2016, it was announced that students will not need to begin paying back their loans until they are making over $25,000 a year, while also increasing the maximum Canada Student Grants amount for low-income students.
With the new budget, an additional $107.4 million over four years is to be spent on the Canada Student Grants program, with a focus on assisting students with dependent children. These allocations begin in 2018/19.
Another $59.8 million has been allocated towards the Canada Student Loans program, making loans and grants more readily available for part-time students over four years. This change will result in an additional 10,000 part-time students becoming eligible, according to a government prediction.
A new project meant to help adults in the workforce return to school by facilitating their access to student loans and grants will receive $287.2 million in funding over three years, starting in 2018/19 as well. The project will test different approaches to making these financial options more accessible to students that want to return to school.
In order to better support Indigenous students, funding for the Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP) will increase by $90 million over two years. This is a breakthrough in terms of the funding’s breaking of the two per cent cap on the increase, but falls a little short of the $50 million yearly promise.
“We were happy to see government accept the recommendation we made in partnership with other U15 schools to increase funding for PSSSP,” noted Kathleen Simpson, AMS VP External, in an email.
The federal Youth Employment Strategy, which aims to expand employment opportunities for the generation newest to the workforce, was started in 1997 but emphasized by Trudeau as something that he wanted to see grow during his time in office.
As a baseline, each year the government invests approximately $330 million in the program. In 2016, considerable investments were made, with a $278.4 million additional allocation to the Youth Employment Strategy and a doubling of the Canada Summer Jobs Program (one of the components of the strategy, which also targets youth work experience).
With the 2017 budget, an additional $395.5 million has been allocated over three years — beginning in 2018/19 — towards the Youth Employment Strategy. The government estimates that the results of this will include the assistance of over 33,000 “vulnerable youth” with employment and education opportunities, and will create 15,000 “green jobs” that aim to contribute growth to environmental sectors across Canada.
Additionally, $221 million — over the next five years beginning in 2017/18 — will be allocated towards the creation of over 6,000 new work-integrated learning placements and co-ops for STEM students and graduates through a partnership with Mitacs. According to their website, Mitacs is a company that “builds partnerships between academia, industry, and the world – to create a more innovative Canada.” According to the government, these initiatives will aim to provide “relevant work experience” across Canada.