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.