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April 23, 2020
Good morning everybody,
I have good news to share. Yesterday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the Canadian government’s plan to support students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Assistance for students in these difficult times has been a top priority for the higher education sector, and the government has delivered in a big way with $9 billion in new federal programs – in addition to previous announcements by the federal government and the Province of Ontario. Higher education expert Alex Usher estimates that this quadruples the normal amount of non-repayable need-based grants given out by the government to students, and he adds that this represents the most generous student assistance package in the world at this time.
I was especially heartened to hear the prime minister explicitly recognize that the future of our country is in the hands of young people pursuing their dreams and planning for their futures. This is what we do here at Carleton – we work with students so that their immense potential becomes fully realized for the greater good. Those of us who watched the prime minister make the announcement live were thrilled to hear a direct reference to Carleton! Mr. Trudeau highlighted the work of Felix Denomme, a recent engineering graduate from Carleton, who is creating reusable face shields for front-line workers using 3-D printers at home. We are so proud of Felix and all the other Carleton students and alumni who, through these difficult times, are making a difference in creative ways.
One of the major initiatives announced yesterday is the new Canada Emergency Student Benefit which is designed to provide immediate assistance for students who can’t find summer employment due to the current public health crisis. The May to August benefit will normally provide $1,250 a month, but individuals who have a disability or a dependent will receive an extra $500 a month. Students can earn up to $1,000 per month through work and still be eligible. Eligible recipients include current post-secondary students, those who graduated in December 2019 or after, and those heading to post-secondary institutions in the fall.
In addition, the government plans to create 76,000 new summer jobs, further to its regular summer jobs program, in sectors that need an extra hand or are responding to COVID-19, including health, agriculture, food processing, transportation and retail. Students helping to fight COVID-19 on a volunteer basis will be eligible for $1,000 to $5,000 this summer, depending on hours, through the new Canada Student Service Grant. The government will also provide more targeted support – $75.2 million – to Indigenous students.
To support graduate students and student researchers, the government will provide $291.6 million to extend expiring federal graduate research scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships by three or four months and supplement existing federal research grants so that students can continue their work.
Students will also be able to access additional loans and grants through the Canada Student Loans Program. Low-income grants will double to $6,000 per academic year, weekly maximum student loan levels will increase to $350 from $210, and student and spousal contribution limits will be removed to reflect the loss of personal and family income during the pandemic.
Finally, yesterday Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada announced new temporary rule changes to facilitate expanded work rights for international students. International students are normally limited to working a maximum of 20 hours per week while classes are in session. This rule will be waived to enable international students who are already in Canada to contribute to essential services.
This suite of initiatives will provide much needed support for students during these challenging times. It goes without saying that here on campus, our own programs to financially assist Carleton students continue.
Please ensure that the information you read and share online comes from credible sources like Ottawa Public Health, the Ontario Ministry of Health or the Public Health Agency of Canada, as the spread of misinformation poses a significant risk to the health and safety of our community.
Looking to the future, summer registrations are in full swing in anticipation of the summer term starting on May 4. And as I wrote earlier this week, like universities across the country and indeed around the world, we are planning for various scenarios in the fall, with more information to come soon.
Have a good day and stay safe,
President and Vice-Chancellor