Manitoba election: PCs vow to boost post-secondary scholarship funding

Brian Pallister and the Progressive Conservatives promise to double funding for scholarships and bursaries available to Manitoba post-secondary students if they're elected.

Progressive Conservatives hope to entice private sector to donate more to post-secondary bursary programs

Brian Pallister and the Progressive Conservatives promise to double funding for scholarships and bursaries available to Manitoba post-secondary students if they're elected. 2:07

The Progressive Conservatives plan to double funding for scholarships and bursaries available to Manitoba post-secondary students if elected, and party Leader Brian Pallister says they would do that by partnering with the private sector.

"I want the barriers to post-secondary and training and education to be lower, not higher," Pallister said Monday outside the University of Manitoba. "Under the Selinger NDP government, those barriers have been rising. They've been rising because high taxes erode the incomes of students."

The PCs will increase the Manitoba Scholarship and Bursary Initiative to $20 million from the current $9 million by increasing government funding and seeking more corporate donations, Pallister said. A Conservative government would increase its contribution to the fund to $6.75 from the current $4.5 million, but will ask the private sector to contribute double that instead of simply matching it, for a one-third government, two-thirds corporate fund instead of the current 50-50 split. 

The bursary program would be similar to that introduced by the PC government in the 1990s, Pallister said. Back then, Pallister said, government would provide one-third of funding and rely on the private sector to invest the remaining two-thirds.

"The NDP changed it so that less money was required from the private donor, more from the government. We're going to change it back," Pallister said. "We think by going to a better formula, we can lever more money from the private sector."
Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister promised Monday to invest in post-secondary bursaries and scholarships if elected April 19. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

Pallister said his party would also liaise with university and college advisors to develop scholarships and bursaries for students in fields "with strong labour market outcomes and employability potential."

The NDP released a statement criticizing the PC plan to restore '90s-era bursary models.

"They're promising less support for scholarships and bursaries, and they're promising less money for students and their families and less certainty for colleges and universities compared to our plan," an NDP spokesperson said in a statement.

"They continue to leave the door open to tuition increases and have opposed our investments in colleges and universities, which have kept tuition in Manitoba affordable."

The PC announcement comes days after Greg Selinger and the New Democrats repeated a party promise to make university more affordable by turning student loans into non-repayable grants if elected. The Manitoba Liberal Party made a similar commitment last fall.