Why do you have to go and make student financial aid so complicated?

If you thought navigating the world of postsecondary student financial aid was a challenge, try reading the latest publication from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The report is called It's Complicated for a reason. Author Jordan MacLaren, a Carleton University student, looked at eligibility for financial aid in every province and territory and concluded:

  • The combination of federal, provincial and joint administered student financial aid programs are inherently complex, lack transparency, and thus, remain removed from public scrutiny and discussion.
  • Appalling inequities exist in the amount of resources offered to students, based on their province of residence.
  • Enormous differences in tuition between provinces are the greatest factor in determining the cost of education and therefore have a great impact on the amount of debt a student may accumulate.
  • Provincial grant programs, whether needs-based or universal, are the largest contributor to debt reduction.

As far as complexity of student aid eligibility goes, B.C. ranks in the middle of the pack. The report assigned B.C. a complexity score of 44. Ontario got a score of 94 for the most complex, and the Northwest Territories received a score of 17 at the other end of the rankings.

This is how the report describes financial aid in B.C.:

British Columbia participates in the CSLP [Canada Student Loans Program] and offers a myriad of targeted and specific programs to students, none of which are needs-based. Some provide assistance to students pursuing degrees in areas which the province has determined have value for labour market priorities, such as nurses and college programs aimed at developing labour for industry (millwright, commercial transport, power engineering, etc.). Other scholarship programs are aimed at students who wish to participate in activities abroad. The remaining programs target public servants or the children of public servants and basic adult education. While these programs may serve to meet the province’s priorities, this is at the expense of low- and middle-income students.

To get a sense of how "murky" student aid eligibility is in B.C., check out the "decision tree" at the top of this post. It shows the "number of possible steps and outcomes for the case of a simple, undergraduate application".

Lucky for B.C. students, this province's decision tree fits on one page. Ontario's is a two-parter.

Comments (3) Add New Comment
Scholarships paid for everything
If you merit attending university the Byzantine regulations around student loans should not be an issue: you won't have to pay a penny. I managed to complete undergrad and grad school without borrowing or whining by the simple expedient of academic excellence. I attended schools in 4 countries and earned 3 degrees without needing money from mom & dad , the government or relatives. I excelled at academic work, earned multiple scholarships and finished school debt free. I never met a single person who merited higher education who wasn't able to figure out how to fund it but I did meet plenty of folks who should have been digging ditches who had been misled into attending college/university. My package at LSE even included housing and transit passes. If you can't figure out how to pay for school without borrowing you shouldn't be pursuing anything beyond "sandwich artistry."
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Martin Dunphy
@scholarships:

Well, aren't you a bright little penny?
However did you resist using your real name?
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Elvenkitty
"If you can't figure out how to pay for school without borrowing you shouldn't be pursuing anything beyond "sandwich artistry."

Because Everyone Is Just Like You, with the exact same background and opportunities at home. There are no such things as families who can't afford to send their kids to Kumon or other 'enrichment' programs; indeed, there are no such things as kids who suffer in school because their families struggle to feed them.

No, no, you are The Paragon Of Human Achievement and everyone else -- being that They Are Just Like You of course -- just needs to Work Harder like Boxer in Animal Farm*. There are no difficulties, only excuses! Napoleon is always right!

* - In before someone tries to play gotcha-games by bringing up the obvious point that Animal Farm was allegorical to the Soviet Union, thereby completely missing my (and Orwell's) point. Try reading Homage to Catalonia (and then reading Animal Farm again) before you play those gotcha games. Orwell knew full well how and why the USSR's socialism was failing, it was because the power-hungry steamrolled over those who wanted to do actual good things.
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