Canada’s federal student grant program took effect Jan. 5, but students residing in Quebec aren’t eligible for the new funds.
The province runs its student aid program independently from the federal government. The two bodies have yet to reach a deal on how and under what conditions funding &- which student activists say could account for more than $100 million – for the program will be transferred to the province.
Canadian law allows provinces to opt out of federal programs if the province has a similar program. Those provinces receive their share of the funding instead.
The new income-based grants replace the Millennium Scholarship Program, which awarded scholarships based on merit.
While the Millennium Scholarships were federally-run, Quebec was able to reach a deal with Ottawa that saw more than $70 million transferred to the province each year to fund the scholarships.
According to both the FÃ©dÃ©ration Ã©tudiante universitaire du QuÃ©bec and the Association pour une solidaritÃ© syndicale Ã©tudiante, Quebec’s largest student lobby groups, Quebec will be loosing out on over $115 million a year if a deal is not reached.
Christian PÃ©pin, spokesperson for ASSÃ‰, which represents 40,000 students at several CEGEPs and universities across the province, said he blames both levels of government for failing to reach a deal.
PÃ©pin said that while Quebec has put more money into its student aid program to close the hole created by the end of the Millennium Scholarship, there is no guarantee it will last. And even if it does, he said, it’s still not enough.
ASSÃ‰ is calling for more money to be put into student aid, which PÃ©pin said provides students with only $7 a day for food.
Other student groups have also criticized the lack of an agreement. On Jan. 5, around 200 students showed up at a protest on Parliament Hill organized by FEUQ, Quebec’s largest student lobby group and the FÃ©dÃ©ration Ã©tudiante collÃ©giale du QuÃ©bec, which represents CEGEP students.
The CSU has also called on the two levels of government to reach a deal. In a press release, president Amine Dabchy described the situation as “completely unacceptable.”
The Parti QuÃ©bÃ©cois has also criticized the government for failing to reach an agreement.
PÃ©pin said ASSÃ‰’s next step will be meeting with the provincial government later this week. While the group has tried to arrange a meeting with the federal Government PÃ©pin said they have yet to receive a response.
The new grants will provide students from low-income families with $250 a month while they are enrolled classes. Students from middle-income families will receive $100 a month.
What is defined as low-income varies from province to province. A family of four would have to make less than $35,419 a year in New Brunswick, while that same family in Alberta would have to make less than $41,691. The middle-income cut-off ranges from $61,023 in New Brunswick to $81,412 in British Columbia.
Students from Nunavut or the Northwest Territories, who also run their student aid programs, will not be eligible for the new funds.