House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance: CASA's 2015 Federal budget priorities

Executive Summary

Since 2008 the Government of Canada has taken important steps to stabilize Canada’s economy, through measures such as investing in education, skills and training. Despite this, Canadians know that there is still uncertainty in the economic landscape and that more needs to be done. While there is no panacea for long-term economic stability, a highly trained and educated population is at the core of creating a stable and prosperous economic future. An educated population helps to grow the economy and creates more opportunities for those looking to join Canada’s labour force. With that goal in mind, the Government of Canada should take an active role in improving student financial assistance in a way that targets those who need it most and supports middle class families.

The current student financial aid system enables thousands of Canadians to access education and skills training. While students benefit from every dollar that is invested in student financial aid, it is Canada as a whole who reaps the benefits from an educated population. Getting people back to work will be dependent on first getting people back to school. The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) is calling on the federal government to lead Canada in that endeavor and eliminate barriers for education and retraining.

Read CASA's submission here

Currently, students are penalized on their student loans for working while in study, despite the fact that work experience contributes to the economy now and to employment success in the future. At a cost of $25 million , CASA recommends that government remove employment penalties for working students. Government can do this by amending the Canada Student Loans Program and eliminating the in-study income exemption limit of $100 per week, allowing students to decide how much they should earn while studying.

At a cost of $46 million , CASA strongly urges government to end the Canada Student Loans Program parental contributions policy and treat students as individuals, regardless of their age or economic background. Short of this, government can ensure that the Canada Student Loans assessment captures the real contributions parents make towards their child’s education.

At a cost of $52.7 million , CASA asks that government address the significant number of students in the Canada Student Loans Program who have unmet financial need. Student loan limits have not increased since 2004, while the costs of an education have increased significantly. It is time government adequately support students by increasing the weekly limit amounts from $210 to $245 per week.

At a cost of $60.8 million , CASA recommends that government better support students by increasing the value of Canada Student Grants by 9.4% to account for inflation since the grant program was created and to tie the program to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Further to that, government should create a grant specific to graduate students with high-financial need.

At a cost of $8 million , CASA urges government to encourage and enable mature learners to retrain and pursue further education without having to risk their financial future. Government can do this by amending the Canada Student Loans Program assessment of borrower assets and exempt $10,000 in personally held financial assets.