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more substance please.

Well, I AM back in Edmonton and slightly busier I usually (so the blog posting action may be a frugal over the next while). I started my new job this week and am enjoying every moment of it. Plus, it’s a really nice day outside.

It was interesting to see what the first Budget of the new Conservative Government had in it for Post-Secondary Education.

Though it’s nice to see this government at least talking a bit about PSE issues, I really hope it doesn’t turn in to the same situation which came about with the previous Liberal government (a main course of talk with a side-order of piece-meal change – with the exception being the creation of the Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation in 1998, who’s mandate comes up for renewal in 2008 and should cause an interesting amount of debate on student finance issues).

Last week’s budget did have some PSE related changes in it, but I can’t see these changes having a large effect on the majority of Canadian students.

Tax credits for textbooks. Canadians attending university or college can claim an annual $500 tax credit on textbook costs, which translates into a benefit of about $80 a year for a typical full-time student. Though it sounds nice, this doesn’t address the reality that because most students already have enough education credits to cover their limited incomes, these new credits won’t make buying textbooks or any other educational expense easier. Not to mention that if it did, students still have to wait until the following year to receive their miniscule $80 rebate.

Increasing access to student debt. More people will be eligible for Canada Student Loans because of a reduction in the amount parents are expected to contribute toward the cost of post-secondary education, effective August 2007. This is a shortsighted move which doesn’t address the long-term problems caused by students graduating with large amounts of debt. Increasing students’ access to loans, and henceforth, debt, doesn’t even begin to address the problems facing the student finance system.

100% Scholarship and Bursary exemption. All scholarship, fellowship and bursary money will now be income-tax exempt, compared to the current exemption limit of $3,000 a year. This tax exemption for all scholarship and bursary money from taxation is negated by that fact that the first $3,000 in scholarship and bursary money is already tax-free, and few students will receive even that much. Even if they did, their other tax credits would likely cover it. This measure will only make a difference for a few super-elite scholarship recipients, and thus cannot be said to be of any benefit to the average student.

Here are some suggestions on what the Tories could add to the budget to make it more effective and positive for Canadian students:

– Create more scholarships and bursaries, which would reduce students reliance on loans, and hence, the creation of large amounts of student debt, instead of raising the amount students borrow for their education.

– Implement the Council of the Federation’s request for an immediate $2.2-4.9 billion injection for post-secondary education.

So, overall, the PSE portion of the budget seems to be a victim of the band-aid reaction of trying to fix things by using the tax system instead of actually facing and dealing with the issue head-on.

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