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Canada’s post-secondary students feeling financial pinch as fall semester ends

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WATCH: University students across the country are feeling the financial pinch heading into the end of the semester and holiday season, leaving some concerned about their mental wellbeing and bank accounts – Dec 9, 2020

University and college students across the country are getting ready for what is looking like a tough holiday season.

COVID-19 and the economic fallout from the pandemic have put many students in a financial bind this December.

Read more: ‘Very frustrating’: Some mature students blocked from online CESB applications

The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) said in the spring, it conducted a survey which found 70 per cent of students had a negative change in their work or lost their job.

The federation’s deputy chairperson said financial pressures increase at this time of year under regular circumstances.

“In seeing that there is still a decimated job market, no major improvements to support students has become available, students are really feeling the pressure especially now and are worried about what’s to come next year, as well as what’s already built up and accumulated this year,” Nicole Brayiannis said.

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The University of Saskatchewan’s Graduate Students’ Association said the issue has been exasperated with many still searching for work.

Read more: Sask. family fights deduction of emergency benefits from daughter’s disability income

Meanwhile the institution has implemented its own measures to relieve students’ financial burden. 

USask’s vice-provost of teaching, learning and student experience said the university has handed out more than $1.3 million in crisis aid funding to about 650 students since mid-March.

“Among all of the things I’ve seen us do and all of the heroic work I’ve seen, I’m exceedingly proud of what we’ve been able to do here,” said Patti McDougall.

She added numbers have slightly decreased since the fall, with only about 70 students receiving $100,000 from that funding since September.

McDougall added students are using the money they receive on everything from rent and groceries to medication and computer repairs.

In order to help on the job front, the U of S also put $175,000 into a fund which hired 91 graduate students to work on 81 different projects over the summer.

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McDougall added many of those students were international students who couldn’t apply for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) funding.

The CESB has been a sticking point for the CFS because those who were granted the benefit received less than the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

In last week’s economic update, the federal government put nearly $450 million towards its summer jobs program, which would create about 120,000 jobs as well as eliminating interest on student loans and apprentice loans until 2021-2022.

The government’s ministry responsible for employment and workforce development said it remains committed to supporting students knows that youth will be at the centre of Canada’s recovery.

“We know students and young Canadians are still facing challenges, and we will continue to do what it takes to be there to support students with comprehensive measures and help them get through these challenging times,” said a statement from Minister Carla Qualtrough’s press secretary.

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Read more: Fiscal guardrails will be ‘anchored’ by the time recovery plan rolls out: Freeland

The CFS said the federal government is harming the country’s future financial outlook by not investing in students’ financial security immediately.

“If we don’t start to act now on issues that we’re already seeing building and exasperating at this moment, we’re not going to be able to fix ourselves long term either,” Brayiannis added.

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