All that is fun about university and college has been pretty much wrecked by COVID-19 and physical distancing.

But what students give up on the social side of their postsecondary education will be offset by the unprecedented amount of financial support available for the 2020-21 academic year. There are pandemic financial support programs, as well as enhanced federal grants. Colleges and universities themselves may have more financial aid to offer through bursaries, and there’s still untapped scholarship money available.


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All this support is badly needed, and not just because the pandemic has made it hard to generate the usual amount of summer job income. With the stock markets in an uproar as the pandemic spread in Canada, the value of registered education savings plans may have fallen. RESPs are the best way for parents and grandparents to help young people afford college or university.

It’s not yet clear what the fall semester at college and university will look like, but many students will take at least some of their courses online rather than in a lecture hall. Students will need to push themselves harder than ever to get the value out of their online curriculum, and they’ll have to forego the social interactions that are a big part of postsecondary life.

These sacrifices add up to a fairly strong argument for taking a gap year and restarting at university or college in fall 2021. But students who will have to borrow to cover their costs – half the undergrad population in a normal year – should consider how much extra money there is this year. Enough to chop thousands off their total amount borrowed, and years off the time it takes to repay the loan.

Here’s a list of financial resources available to students for the 2020-21 academic year that was assembled by Shelley Clayton, director of the financial student aid office at the University of New Brunswick’s Fredericton campus:

CANADA STUDENT GRANT FOR FULL-TIME STUDENTS

The maximum amount available through this non-repayable program for lower-income students has been doubled to $6,000 from $3,000.

CANADA STUDENT LOANS

The weekly maximum loan limit rises to $350 from $210 . Also, the requirement that students contribute a portion of their education costs has been waived for the 2020-21 academic year. The requirement for spousal contributions has been waived as well. Some provinces will also be suspending these contribution requirements, Ms. Clayton said.

BURSARIES

Available through the financial aid officers of individual colleges and universities to students in financial need. It’s quite possible that campuses will have more bursary money to distribute in the year ahead.

SCHOLARSHIPS

These are typically awarded well in advance of the academic year, but Ms. Clayton said some scholarships may still be available as a result of pandemic-related disruptions. The website Yconic offers a directory of scholarships, bursaries and student awards worth more than $170-million. Also check out Universities Canada, Scholarships Canada and, for First Nation, Inuit, and Métis students, Indspire.

CANADA STUDENT SERVICE GRANT

Students aged 30 and younger can earn $1,000 to $5,000 this summer by doing volunteer work for non-profit organizations. Ms. Clayton said students are still eligible to apply for the CSSG if they are receiving the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (see below).

CANADA EMERGENCY STUDENT BENEFIT

Up to $1,250 per four-week period from May through August to students who have looked for work, but haven’t been successful because of COVID-19. Eligibility includes students who just completed high school and have applied for a postsecondary program that starts before next Feb. 1, who are already enrolled in a postsecondary program or who graduated in December, 2019, or later.

CANADA EMERGENCY RESPONSE BENEFIT

Pays $2,000 every four weeks for up to 24 weeks to people who had to stop working as a result of the pandemic. Applicants must have made at least $5,000 over the previous 12 months or in 2019, which leaves room for students who had good jobs last year.

Ms. Clayton figures a student could receive an extra $8,000 or more for the 2020-21 academic year as a result of the programs listed here. The pandemic may turn the year ahead into the worst ever on campuses, socially speaking. Financially, it might be the best year ever.


This Globe and Mail article was legally licensed by AdvisorStream.

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Michael Thorne
Financial Planner
Thorne Financial Planning