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Changes coming to P.E.I.'s George Coles bursary program

Students will be able to receive support while claiming other sources of government income, says the province of P.E.I.

'We will work to change so Island students are eligible for this if they have a source of income'

'We will work to change so Island students are eligible for this if they have a source of income,' says Sonny Gallant, P.E.I.'s Minister of Workforce and Advanced Learning. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

The province is reviewing the eligibility rules for the George Coles bursary program, says P.E.I.'s Minister of Workforce and Advanced Learning Sonny Gallant.

The program provides bursaries of up to $2,200 for graduates of Island high schools pursuing their first year of post-secondary education on the Island.

However, students are currently deemed ineligible if they receive financial support from another government program or agency — including employment insurance.

Tignish-Palmer Road MLA Hal Perry raised the issue Tuesday in the legislature.

He pointed to a new program, Career Connect, which allows students to receive employment insurance benefits while attending university.

"That's a huge benefit to students," Perry said. "Especially those in my district who have to stay away from home, pay rent and food and board and such to go to school."

"George Coles was designed to give first-time students a little bit of a break financially for when they attend a post-secondary institution ... Why not have that George Coles bursary accessible to everyone?"

Government is already working to make the change, said Gallant.

"We will work to change so Island students are eligible for this if they have a source of income," he told the House.

Earlier in the current sitting of the legislature, Gallant told the House that about 1,000 Island students have applied to be part of the Career Connect program, with 700 accepted.

The Opposition has accused government of "clawing back" the employment insurance benefits those students receive from their provincial student loans.

Gallant argued it's not a clawback, but said the benefits count as income, which reduces the maximum loan amount available to students.