Post-secondary students who use loans from StudentAid BC will soon have more support in receiving and paying back their loans beginning Aug. 1.
The B.C. government announced last month that student loan maximums will double. Students without dependents will be eligible to receive up to $220 per week compared to $110, and students with dependents could see up to $280 weekly from to $140.
This is the first increase to weekly student loan maximums since 2006, according to a B.C. government news release.
“[The] cost of living is going up. It’s been years and years since the financial aid maximums have changed. We know that the costs have gone up in that intermediate time, so it should be reflected in the maximum loan amount,” says B.C. Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills Selina Robinson.
With this increase, Robinson says students can possibly change the way they live their lives by being able to attend school full time and work part time, buy fresh produce, enjoy a few social events with friends, and finish their education faster to enter the workforce sooner.
“For some, [this] was just not attainable on $110. But now, if they can get $220, maybe they actually can go to school and get the skills that they need to get a better job. All of this will make a difference for so many people,” Robinson says.
Funding for the increased weekly loan maximums will come from a $151-million investment over three years in Budget 2023, according to a B.C. government news release.
Students who apply for StudentAid BC will also automatically be considered for the B.C. Access Grant, which began in 2020 and can provide low and middle-income students up to $4,000 per year.
Paying back student loans will also be a little bit easier. Graduates earning less than $40,000 a year will not have to make payments while looking for a job in their field, an increase from the previous $25,000. The maximum monthly repayment amount will also be lowered from 20 to 10 per cent of household income.
In 2019, the B.C. government made the provincial portion of student loans interest-free, as did the federal government this past April.
Fourth-year Kwantlen Polytechnic University journalism student Lisa Hedmark has been using StudentAid BC for six years, and says while the increase is awesome for new and returning students, she wishes that it was announced earlier.
“For me, it’s a little bit too late now. It was shocking to see the last increase was over a decade ago,” Hedmark says. “I could have definitely used the extra money.”
However, with the increase, she says it will allow her to spend more time at school.
“I can focus on my studies a little bit more, which I think is the biggest help of student aid. I can just focus on finishing school, and worry about the payment when I’m done.”
While the increase is good for students to have, she says it may be problematic long term.
“I don’t know if it’s going to be good in the overall sense that students are going to be paying more back because we’re going to be spending a little bit more. But it probably will help people get into comfortable living situations, so I think overall, it’s good,” Hedmark says.
“The whole time I’ve been in university, I have been using student aid. I know I wouldn’t have been able to go to university without it.”
Robinson says the provincial government is also working to build more affordable student housing, and has built over 7,700 beds on campuses across B.C. so far.
They are working on constructing 386 beds at Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby campus and 217 at North Island College.
“It’s really important that we invest in [students] and make sure that you have the opportunities to learn the skills that you’re going to need in the future,” Robinson says.