The federal government recently announced their 2021 Budget, A Recovery Plan for Jobs, Growth, and Resilience. This budget focuses on student aid, youth jobs, innovation and Indigenous students and education as Canada recovers from the pandemic. The Waterloo Undergraduate Student Associations (WUSA) applauds this support of the federal government, as the budget includes investments in student financial aid, work integrated learning and Indigenous student support—critical items WUSA advocated for on behalf of post-secondary students.
The 2021 Budget highlights the key role that post-secondary education and students will play in economic recovery, and includes the following investments in students:
Student Financial Aid
We asked for more effective and targeted student financial assistance and the government listened, announcing a reformation of the Canada Student Loans program in Budget 2021. The budget includes a two year extension on the doubling of Canada Student Grants, and promises to extend the waiver of interest accrual on Canada Student Loans and Canada Apprentice Loans until March, 2023. There is also an expansion to better support students with disabilities and enhancements to repayment assistance which will better target graduates with the most need.
Access for Indigenous Students
In our recommendation to the government, we advocated for investments in Metis Nation and Inuit Post-Secondary Strategy to remove barriers, as well increased funding for Indigenous students wanting to pursue high-social-impact fields such as healthcare and education. While we would like to see more support for these specific areas, we were pleased to hear that the government is recognizing the additional barriers disproportionately impacting Indigenous learnings with a total investment of $150.6 million over two years (2021-23) being provided to support Indigenous students through the Post-Secondary Student Support Program and the Inuit and Métis Nation Post-Secondary Education Strategies.
Supporting International Students
We called on the government to prioritize international students by including them in federal employment programs and increasing funding for Student Work Placement opportunities for both international and domestic students. We were pleased to find that $239.8 million is being invested in the Student Work Placement Program (2021-22) to support work-integrated learning opportunities for post-secondary students. While this is a welcomed investment for domestic students, we were disappointed to learn that it does not include international students. We will continue to advocate for international students to be included in employment programs and would still like to see that change happen.
Funding for jobs and connecting students with employers
Among the investments in Canada’s youth, the government prioritized investments in skill development, the Student Work Placement program which will benefit co-op students, and the Canada Summer Jobs program. The budget committed $371.8 million in new funding for Canada Summer Jobs (2022-23) to support approximately 75,000 new job placements in the summer of 2022. This is welcome news as young people have experienced the greatest employment challenges during this pandemic and were expected to continue to be disproportionately impacted by employment barriers post-pandemic.
Undergraduate research opportunities
We asked for investments to expand undergraduate research and a prioritization in research projects that fulfill a ‘future global challenge’ as identified by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRSC). We have seen the critical role that student research has played throughout this pandemic and will be especially important for Canada’s recovery, therefore, we were disappointed by the lack of investment in research funding for students in Budget 2021.
WUSA applauds the government for making post-secondary students a priority in the 2021 Budget and this announcement gives us the confidence that the government is listening. As a result, on behalf of over 35,000 students, we express our appreciation for this investment and look forward to continued work on critical issues for post-secondary students.