Kitchener-Waterloo

Federal budget has met expectations, Conestoga student association leader says

Conestoga Students Inc. is “happy” with the federal budget delivered this week by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Support package will bring significant temporary relief to students impacted by COVID-19: Banu

President of Conestoga Students Inc. Sana Banu says based on their engagement with the student population, financial issues are an absolute priority for them. (Submitted by Sana Banu)

The president of Conestoga Students Inc. is "happy" with the federal budget delivered this week by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland.

CSI president Sana Banu says based on their engagement with the student population, financial issues are an absolute priority for them.

"The support package for students included in budget 2021 will bring significant temporary relief to students who the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted," Banu told CBC K-W.

Conestoga Students Inc. (CSI) is the official student association at the college, based in Kitchener, since 1973 and represents in interests of more than 19,000 CSI fee-paying students across all campuses.

In the budget the federal government proposes to extend the doubling of student grants for a further two years until the end of July 2023. The budget estimated the cost of this extension at $3.1 billion over two years starting in 2021-22.

Banu said the budget met CSI's expectations.

"As our students continue to stress over their finances in light of lost opportunities and income, it's certainly a welcome and necessary step by the federal government to extend tuition supports, pause interest accrual on loans, and invest in employment opportunities for our student cohort," she said. 

"Students and youth are an essential part of the economic recovery from COVID-19, and these investments suggest the federal government feels the same."

In the budget the federal government proposes to extend the doubling of Canada Student Grants for a further two years until the end of July 2023. (Student Wellness at the University of Guelph/Twitter) (Ben Nelms/CBC)

But Banu said while the extension of the Canada Student Grants is welcome and needed, CSI notes this is a temporary extension and there's a need for a longer-term solution to a more protracted, more extensive to make post-secondary education affordable. 

"We would have loved to have seen these supports become permanent," she said. 

"Additionally, we have a large international student cohort largely unaffected by the supports for students announced by the federal government. Their inability to access these necessary supports during their stay in Canada highlights an inequity that we would have liked to have seen addressed in budget 2021."

CSI welcomes investment in employment opportunities

Meanwhile, the CSI president said they applaud the investments in employment opportunities for students and the extension and doubling of the Canada Student Grants. 

"As students and all Canadians recover from the ongoing pandemic, investments in employment opportunities are essential to ensuring the effects of COVID-19 on student employment do not compound the existing issue of affordability in post-secondary education," Banu said.

"Significant investments by the federal government in the Student Work Placement Program, the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy, Canada Summer Jobs program, and investments in the work-integrated learning placements for Canadian students through Mitacs will benefit the long-term financial well-being of Conestoga's student population."

Dagmawit Worku, who started her first year of post-secondary education during the pandemic, is satisfied that the budget seeks to create enough opportunities for mentorship to support students heading into university.

"From what I've read, it sounds like a lot of funds are being allocated to that and a lot of partnerships with different companies and non-profits, which seem like a great idea, and I think would be very helpful for students," Worku told CBC K-W.

Dagmawit Worku, who started her first year at University of Waterloo during the pandemic, is satisfied that the budget seeks to create enough opportunities for mentorship to support students heading into university. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

The first year University of Waterloo student says she can only imagine what it's like for students who are graduating and try to find a job, especially during these times. 

Banu noted the cost of post-secondary education in Canada has risen 2.7 times from 1990 to 2018, and even more in the last three years.

"The affordability of post-secondary education is a crisis compounded by the massive loss of employment students experienced because of the COVID-19 virus," Banu said. 

"Providing students non-repayable financial assistance through the Canada Student Grants to help cover the ever-growing cost of tuition is a necessary and needed action by the federal government that we welcome."

With files from Fitsum Areguy

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