Manitoba

Cuts to post-secondary funding program target disadvantaged Manitobans, students say

The province cut the annual grant for post-secondary Access programs by $1 million for the last academic year, while eliminating Access bursaries for 210 students, according to internal documents obtained by the Opposition New Democrats.

Province eliminated Access bursaries, but says other bursaries exist for low-income students

NDP Leader Wab Kinew joined approximately 30 Access program students at the Manitoba Legislature on Tuesday to call on the government to reinstate the program's funding. (Fernand Detillieux/Radio-Canada)

A group of students at the Manitoba Legislature Tuesday said provincial funding changes will make it harder for them to improve their lives by getting a post-secondary education.

The province cut the annual grant for Access programs — which are designed to help students with barriers to post-secondary education — from $11.3 million in 2017-18 to $10.3 million for the last academic year.

In addition, $1.6 million set aside for Access bursaries for 210 students was cut, according to internal documents obtained by the Opposition New Democrats through freedom of information laws. 

On Tuesday, around 30 post-secondary students from Access programs visited the legislature, at the invitation of the NDP.

They said the funding cut is hurting students who need help the most. 

"Everybody in this program is already disadvantaged, so for them to cut back on our funding doesn't really help," social work student Fatu Mansaray told reporters Tuesday, as some students behind her nodded in agreement. 

No reduction in funding: province

"With the cutbacks, I have literally had to move from an impoverished area to an even more impoverished area in the city," said Mansaray, who lives on Selkirk Avenue.

Fatu Mansaray, a social work student who has been helped financially by the Access program at the University of Manitoba, says the funding cut is hurting students who already struggle to afford a post-secondary education.

The government, however, says there's been no reduction in the total amount of funding available for scholarships and bursaries.

The cash for Access bursaries has been folded into a general bursary fund for student aid, a government spokesperson said. The province also provides an upfront grant of up to $2,000 for low-income students.

But the Access students at the Manitoba Legislature on Tuesday say those supports don't provide the help the Access funding did.

Some say they were eligible for thousands of dollars in Access bursaries.

"These are people who are trying to change their lives for the better through education — in many cases, trying to lift themselves and their families out of poverty," said NDP Leader Wab Kinew.

"It doesn't make any sense for the government to be removing $2,000 per student worth of support for people who have the smarts, have the work ethic, have the will to change their lives for the better and maybe just need a little bit of help finding the way."

Aid helps feed children, student says

After surviving a meth addiction, homelessness and poverty at different points of her life, Angelica van Bastelaere says she's one of those students who needs a helping hand.

The social work student works nights to pay for her schooling and provide for her three children.

"Those sponsorships and those bursaries are the things that help me to feed my children while I'm going through school, because the amount that I'm given barely pays my rent."

Jessica Beaudin left university because she couldn't afford it, but the Access program at the University of Manitoba brought her back. 

"This time around, the Access program has given me the opportunity to feel as if I am a part of a community, to know my education is important and that there are people in this community that care about people in the inner-city," she said.

"My family has always been in poverty and I don't want my children growing up in poverty."

About the Author

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese reports from the Manitoba Legislature for CBC Manitoba. He previously wrote for the Brandon Sun and the Carillon in Steinbach. Story idea? Email ian.froese@cbc.ca.

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