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Sherri Torjman, September 2009
This study explores the interaction between student aid and social assistance − the two main systems in Canada that provide financial support to post-secondary students. Both systems are complex in themselves because they are governed by a wide range of rules and regulations. Their complexity is exacerbated by the constitutional nature of Canada. This paper focuses on the interface issues because of an overriding concern: Students from low-income households are under-represented in the post-secondary educational system − particularly at the university level. They face multiple barriers, including information and motivational factors, to participation. Another major problem, not surprisingly, is their limited income and assets relative to the cost of post-secondary education.The disproportionately lower level of participation in post-secondary education is a concern from both household and societal perspectives. For households, the economic and social benefits of pursuing higher education have been widely documented in both Canada and the developed world. While the number of individuals in the student aid/social assistance interface is relatively small, the barriers they face are not unique to this group. Options for reform involve both immediate fixes to student aid/social assistance and various ways to enable access to post-secondary education for disadvantaged students more generally. Proposals include individualized case management, opportunities for educational upgrading and development of wrap-around approaches.
ISBN – 1-55382-395-8
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