Federal Budget 2019 contains good news for post-secondary students with disabilities

(Ottawa, April 23, 2019)

The Federal Budget delivered in March included a number of very important measures for college and university students with disabilities that enhance the Canada Student Loans and Grants programs and will be available for disabled students starting in the upcoming fall school year.

Announcements in the budget specific to students with disabilities include a significant increase on the cap on the Canada Student Grant for Services and Equipment for Students with Permanent Disabilities from $8,000 to $20,000 per year. This grant can go towards exceptional education-related services or equipment for eligible students with a permanent disability. Disabled students often bear higher costs when pursuing university or college studies because of their disabilities and this measure will help students with disabilities afford the necessary services and equipment for their studies. The Government of Canada will also now expand the eligibility for the Severe Permanent Disability Benefit under the Canada Student Loans Program (CSLP) so more students who have severe permanent disabilities can qualify for loan forgiveness.

Another important and very beneficial program and policy change announcement in Budget 2019 and starting in 2020-21 is the removal of the restriction that borrowers using the Repayment Assistance Plan for Borrowers with a Permanent Disability, who have been out of study for five years, cannot receive further loans and grants until their outstanding loans are paid in full. Persons with disabilities require more education to compete in the labour market. This new measure will make it easier for many students with disabilities to return to school to complete additional post-secondary studies and training.

According to Canada Student Loans Program Annual Report 2015/2016 in the 2015 to 2016 loan year, the CSLP disbursed 44,000 grants to support students with permanent disabilities, an increase of approximately 7.6% from the previous year and nearly 19,300 individuals received support under the Repayment Assistance Plan for Students with a Permanent Disability after graduation. A further 710 borrowers had loan obligations forgiven by means of the Severe Permanent Disability Benefit.

“The measures announced for students with disabilities in Budget 2019 are very important for the students we represent. I feel the Government of Canada has listened to us,” said Margaret Lyons-MacFarlane, Vice-Chair of the National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS). Margaret serves as the NEADS representative on the federal National Advisory Group on Student Financial Assistance, a post-secondary stakeholder group of student organizations, financial aid administrators, provincial and territorial financial aid authorities and representative organizations of universities and colleges.

Margaret added: “We have seen cut-backs to loans and grants funding in some provinces, most recently in Ontario with cuts and changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP). As students with disabilities rely on a combination of federal and provincial grants and loans to fund their education, these improvements to the federal program are great news for disabled students.”
Other measures in Federal Budget 2019 that will benefit college and university students across Canada:

Starting in 2019-20:
•       A lowered fixed interest rate on CSLs to prime plus 2.0%, from its current rate of prime plus 5.0% and a lower floating interest rate on CSLs to prime, from its current rate of prime plus 2.5%;
•       Making the six-month non-repayment period (the “grace period”) after a student loan borrower leaves school interest-free;
•       An increase in the eligibility for loan rehabilitation after a borrower defaults on their CSL; and
•    Increased compensation to provinces and territories, partners in the CSLP.

Starting in 2020-2021:
•       Implementation of interest-free and payment-free leave in six-month stackable periods, for a maximum of 18 months, for borrowers taking temporary leave from their studies for medical or parental reasons, including mental health leave.
For more information contact:
National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS)
Rm. 514 Unicentre, Carleton University
Ottawa, Ontario, K1S 5B6, tel. (613) 380-8065, ext. 201