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VICTORIA— The BC government’s 2020 Budget has students and educators celebrating the introduction of an up-front, needs-based student grant program. The BC Access Grant is the first of its kind in BC in nearly two decades, and will help reduce student loan debt for thousands of British Columbians every year.

“The faculty and staff who work at BC colleges, institutes and universities see the financial stress students are under. Educators want students to succeed and this up-front grant will make a big difference for the low and middle income learners who need help,” said Terri Van Steinburg, President of the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC. “An affordable, accessible, post-secondary system benefits everyone in our province. Today’s announcement adds to measures like tuition-free adult basic education and tuition waivers for former youth in care which have truly changed students’ lives. That’s the power of post-secondary education, and investments in expanding those opportunities.”

The BC Access Grant will be $41 million annually, which is projected to assist 40,000 students each year; it will be funded through a combination of reinvestments of existing assistance measures and new investment of $24 million over three years. Complementing the Canada Access Grant, the BC Access Grant will ensure eligible students receive as much as $4,000 in non-repayable financial aid in each year of their studies.

Student debt in BC has risen 88% since 1999, and the average student loan balance upon graduation is over $30,000. A recent study showed that student debt holds young people back not only professionally, but also in other important ways: because of rising debt, recent graduates in Canada are delaying major life events like getting married, buying a home, or starting a family.

“With tuition fees at an all-time high, student debt in BC continues to grow as students and their families struggle to afford the education they need to enter the workforce,” said Klassen. “The BC Access Grant will help students access not only four-year programs, but certificate and diploma programs that are key for many aspects of the workforce.”

Through the BCFS, students have long sought student debt relief, focusing on the elimination of interest on student loans and the creation of needs-based grants. In its 2019 Budget, the BC government eliminated interest charged on the BC portion of student loans. The change announced today will further reduce financial barriers to education, helping more people access the training they need to get ahead.

The BC Federation of Students represents over 170,000 students at 15 universities, colleges, and institutes in every region of BC. The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators represents 10,000 educators in colleges, institutes and teaching universities in BC.


For more information, please contact:


Tanysha Klassen, Chairperson                           (604) 733-1880

Jenelle Davies, Spokesperson                            (604) 733-1880


Nicole Seguin, Communications Officer            (604) 831-6684



In 2004 the then-BC Liberal government eliminated the BC Student Grant Program, effectively removing non-repayable financial assistance for BC students. Without this, student loans have become the primary — if not the only — assistance for those who cannot afford to pay up-front for their education.

Student Debt Keeps Graduates from Fully Contributing to the Economy

Student debt is affecting recent graduates in major ways. A 2018 RBC report shows the depth this impact is having on graduates’ contribution to the economy in terms of delaying major life choices. Amongst recent university graduates, over 50% report not saving enough for emergencies, 45% are delaying a home purchase, 25% delay having children and 20% report delaying marriage. These changes mean that student debt is shrinking the economy. The government’s recent announcement to eliminate interest on student loans is a great first step which will help grow the economy by putting money back in the pockets of students as they join the work force, which can then be spent on goods and services. But the thought of lingering student debt after graduation still means that new graduates withdraw from the economy instead of contributing to it.

Public Support

Recent public opinion polling demonstrates that 68% of British Columbians support the creation of an up-front needs-based grant program.

Students’ Campaigns

The BCFS campaign Squash the Squeeze, launched in 2014, highlighted the need for drastic change to the post-secondary education funding and financial aid systems. Through the campaign, more than 20,000 postcards were sent to the then-BC Liberal government demanding the implementation of an up-front needs based grants program. At the same time, students across the province met with their MLAs and presented to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services year after year making the same arguments.

The campaign was relaunched in 2018 as Grants Not Loans, with the same goal of the implementation of an up-front needs-based grants program. Information about the campaign can be found at wearebcstudents.ca/grantsnotloans.

About FPSE

The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for faculty and staff in BC teaching universities, colleges and institutes, and in private sector institutions. FPSE member locals, represented by Presidents' Council and the Executive, represent over 10,000 faculty and staff at 18 public and 4 private sector institutions.