Millennium Foundation out, student grants in

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

The demise of the Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation signals a new era in student funding, as the federal government recently unveiled its replacement: the Canada Student Grant Program.

Ten years ago, the CMSF began with an endowment of $2.5 billion to be spent by the end of 2009. As the program’s deadline neared, speculation began about the fate of this funding and various lobbying efforts arose to renew the CMSF.

But the door was finally closed on the scholarship program last month. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced the foundation would not be renewed in the 2008 federal budget.

Now, $350 million per year has been allocated to the new program.

Two student financial aid experts " University Students’ Council VP-university affairs and Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance president David Simmonds and Canadian Alliance of Student Associations national director Zach Churchill " weighed in on the pros and cons of this new initiative.

“Our members were clearly disappointed that the Foundation wasn’t renewed,” Churchill said, but added the new program does reflect their lobbying efforts.

While Churchill said the budget did not target aboriginals, first-generation learners, rural students or those with disabilities, he was pleased to see targeted funding for low-income students in the CSGP plan.

Simmonds disagreed and said the CSGP may cause reduced aid for low-income students.

The total amount of grant money will stay the same, but will be spread out more between students " resulting in more opportunities for middle-income students to obtain financial aid, while taking money away from lower-income applicants.

Unlike the need-based system used in the CMSF, the new program will be income-based. This could potentially result in more grant dollars received by college students.

Simmonds added the CSGP will not use the per-capita formula of the CMSF. This means higher populations in provinces like Ontario will not be a factor in the distribution of grants and more money will go to Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Atlantic provinces.

“Less money will go to Ontario students,” Simmonds warned.

Despite the CSGP’s drawbacks, students are guaranteed to not lose any funding overall.

“We think that this program, as it’s presented, doesn’t fulfill all the benefits [the CMSF] was providing students in the post-secondary community,” Churchill said, “but because this is a new program and the government is going to work with students to develop it ... the holes could be fixed over time.”

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