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Federal budget impacts postsecondary

Feb. 29, 2008

While the 2008 federal budget contained no major postsecondary education items, it did include more money for research and some changes to student assistance programs.

The federal government announced Feb. 26 that the Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation will be replaced with a similar program; administrative changes will be made to student loans; new scholarships are being offered for graduate students; additional funds are provided help support university research and new funding was announced for medical, automotive, and environmental research.

Dr. Eddy Campbell, Memorial’s acting president, said he is pleased with the government’s commitment to university research, increased funding support to help students with their debt issues, and commitments to facilitate our recruitment of international students.

“Research and development activities at Memorial help support our graduate students as they continue their education, and lead to innovative ground-breaking work that affects the university and the larger community,” said Dr. Campbell. “I am also very pleased that government is investing in our young people through a new grant program that will make the cost of a university education more accessible to low and middle income students.”

The Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation, which provides $350 million a year in needs and merit based scholarships, is to be replaced in 2009 by a new $350 million Canada Student Grants Program.

Canada Student Grants funding is budgeted to increase by $80 million by 2012-13 to $430 million.

Universities will receive $116 million in new research funding next year. The new funding is directed primarily at research with environmental or commercial applications. About $80 million will go to Canada’s three major research granting councils, the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). These councils are the primary agencies through which the federal government supports research at Canada’s universities and research hospitals.

Genome Canada, a not-for-profit corporation that funds genomics and proteomics research will receive an additional $140 million. And $250 million will be spent over the next five years on a new Automotive Innovation Fund, which will sponsor research in support of the automotive sector.

Five hundred top graduate students will receive support from a new program, the Canada Graduate Scholarships. To encourage top graduate students to come or to stay in Canada, the government will spend $25 million over the next two years to create the scholarship which will be worth up to $50,000 over three years.

To encourage parents to save for a child’s education through Registered Education Savings plans, the amount of time that a plan may stay open has been extended from 25 to 35 years, and the maximum contribution period has been extended by 10 years.

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) said it was pleased to see the creation of new Canada Graduate Scholarships for top Canadian and international doctoral students and a new Canada Student Grant Program that will provide targeted grants to increase accessibility to post secondary education for students from low and middle income families. 

“We have strongly urged the federal government to invest in people both through graduate-level scholarships for top Canadian and international students and through needs-based grants for traditionally underrepresented groups. We are pleased that the budget has announced important initiatives in both of these areas,” said Dr. Tom Traves, chair of the AUCC board of directors and president of Dalhousie University.

“We also welcome the budget’s commitment to modernize the immigration system to help postsecondary institutions attract foreign students.” 

The budget also announced a number of investments in university-based research including, among others, the new Canada Global Excellence Research Chairs, and a $15 million increase to support the institutional costs of research through the Indirect Costs Program.

“We appreciate the government’s continued recognition of the importance of investing in university research. Canada’s leadership in public R&D performance will depend on significant investments to ensure the international competitiveness of this country’s university research effort,” stated Claire M. Morris, president and CEO of AUCC. 

The AUCC represents 92 Canadian public and private, not-for-profit universities and university-degree level colleges.