PRESS RELEASE – May 19, 2021
Province’s new survey on Manitoba Student Aid risks overlooking those most in need
Winnipeg, MB – Manitoba’s minister of advanced education, skills and immigration today announced a new online survey to garner public engagement on the province’s student aid program, Manitoba Student Aid, which offers students financial support through loans, grants and bursaries. In a news release the province said it distributed $30 million in scholarships and bursaries and close to $60 million in interest-free student loans last year.
The Manitoba Alliance of Post-Secondary Students (MAPSS) welcomes the opportunity for students to be able to provide feedback on their experience with Manitoba Student Aid, but warns that it would be a mistake for the government to think that focusing on this program alone will ensure post-secondary education becomes more affordable and accessible.
Said Brendan Scott, president of the University of Manitoba Students’ Union and member of MAPSS: “Streamlining Manitoba Student Aid to be more efficient and accessible online is definitely necessary, and students are glad they are finally being asked to weigh in on their experience with the program over the past year-plus. During that same time virtually everything within post-secondary education and student services has had to shift online, so financial aid for students should be no different.”
Adds Scott: “This is especially true for current and aspiring students that have questions about Manitoba Student Aid – the answers to which can literally decide whether or not they will be able to either finish or begin their studies.”
MAPSS warns, however, that the government should remember that disadvantaged learners – those who often require financial support to afford their studies – should not be left out of the consultation process around reforms to Manitoba Student Aid, especially as more of it moves online. The University of Manitoba, for example, has previously estimated that one in ten students at the U of M lack reliable home internet access.
Said Emily Kalo, vice-president advocacy at UMSU, and also a MAPSS member: “The negative economic effects of the pandemic mean that for people from low-income backgrounds and marginalized communities, their goal of attending college or university is further away than ever. Any reforms and enhancements to Manitoba Student Aid, while welcome, should include their perspectives and not come at the expense of things like Access programs. For some, these programs are their only chance to get post-secondary education.”
Established in the 1970s, Access programs are currently offered at the University of Manitoba, University of Winnipeg, Red River College and the University College of the North. These programs assist eligible Indigenous, northern and low-income residents of Manitoba to obtain post-secondary education through offering tailored academic, financial and social supports.
Adds Kalo: “For decades, Access programs have been an effective made-in-Manitoba model for breaking cycles of inequality and child poverty, of which Manitoba has among the highest rates in Canada. They also directly align with recommendations from the Horizon Manitoba report, the 2016 Indigenous Education Blueprint, and government’s own new Skills, Talent and Knowledge strategy. Yet for some reason this government refuses to listen to proposals for how increase participation in them.
MAPSS is a provincial lobbying coalition formed in the fall of 2020 by the University of Manitoba Students’ Union, the U of M Graduate Students’ Association, and the Red River College Students’ Association. The student groups that comprise MAPSS collectively represent over 61,000 post-secondary students in Manitoba.
For media inquiries:
Brendan Scott – firstname.lastname@example.org
Emily Kalo – email@example.com