Ottawa is earmarking more than $5.7-billion over the next five years to help young Canadians pay for education and land jobs, as they grapple with high levels of unemployment stemming from the pandemic.
Measures unveiled in the federal budget Monday include larger tuition grants, changes aimed at making student loans easier to repay and $721-million over two years to help students find work opportunities. Young Canadians have experienced more job loss because of the COVID-19 pandemic than any other age group, the federal government said.
“Our youth have paid a high price to keep the rest of us safe. We will not allow them to become a lost generation,” Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said during a news conference Monday.
In some instances, Ottawa is extending measures it introduced earlier to help postsecondary students. For example, the federal government doubled the size of the Canada Student Grant for the most recent school year and froze student debt payments in response to the pandemic. The grant program helps low-income students cover tuition and living expenses.
The federal budget tabled Monday proposes to continue providing the larger grant for two more years, a move that will cost Ottawa $3.1-billion over that period. It also waives interest on federal student loans until March, 2023, at a price tag of $392.7-million, which would result in savings for 1.5 million graduates.
Ottawa also plans to increase the threshold for a federal program that helps low-income borrowers repay their student debt. Currently, those earning $25,000 or less are eligible for the program, which provides assistance to roughly 350,000 borrowers each year; the budget proposes making the assistance available to anyone earning up to $40,000.
The change would allow 121,000 more borrowers to access the program and would cost roughly $203.5-million over four years, and $64.2-million a year after that.
Ottawa has also proposed millions in spending to help young Canadians find employment opportunities. That includes $371.8-million in new funding to create 75,000 summer jobs in 2022, $239.8-million toward the student work-placement program and $109.3-million for the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy. The latter program aims to help young people who face barriers to employment.
Undergraduates of Canadian Research-Intensive Universities, an advocacy group that represents postsecondary students, applauded the government for removing some barriers to higher education.
“Students are an integral part of Canada’s post-COVID-19 rebuild and need financial support to help Canada build back better,” Mackenzy Metcalfe, the organization’s chair, said in a statement.
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