Proposed Canadian Learning Passport: Will $1,500 Per Year Make a Difference?

“The message we will give every one of our kids is if you get the grades, you get to go.”

Those were the words of the Liberal Party of Canada’s leader Michael Ignatieff as he announced one of his party’s election promises: The Canadian Learning Passport. In addition to existing student loans and other programs that Canadians have access to education, the Liberals are proposing a $1 billion program that would give a non-repayable bursary (grant) to families to help them pay for their children’s education.  The program would provide:

  • $4,000 tax-free for every high school student who chooses to go to university, college or CÉGEP — $1,000 per year over four years
  • $6,000 — or $1,500 each year — for high school students from low-income families.

Worth the trouble?

This sounds like a nice handout, but will it really help?

  • First, based on current tuition and living costs in Canada, one year of full-time tuition and living expenses is at least $15,000. For low income students, that means that the Learning Passport would take care of about 10% of their expenses. For young Canadians who cannot afford to go to university, $1500 per year is not going to change that.
  • Third, for upper and middle class Canadians, this isn’t anything to get excited about either. The government will essentially be taking the money out of your right pocket and putting it back into your left pocket.

Interestingly, when the Conservatives implemented a $100 per month payment to parents of children under 6 instead of putting a national universal daycare system into place, a Liberal Party aide quipped that Canadians would “blow [the money] on beer and popcorn.” I wonder what they think university students would blow the money on?

Learning from daycare policies.

There are many paralells between this and the daycare situation. It comes down to giving pennies to people to do with as they please versus directing money to the areas that it is most needed. The former may be more popular with voters who can afford daycare and university, but the latter is what will truly make a difference in the lives of people who are currently unable to access quality daycare and quality education.

Instead of giving random handouts of $1000 or $1500 per year to anyone who meets the minimum criteria to get into university, perhaps our government should be focusing on providing a higher level of funding to those students who show exceptional potential and otherwise would not be able to afford to go. Instead of throwing $1000 a year at middle class families who would find a way to send their kids one way or another, why not look into providing $10,000 or $15,000 a year to those who really cannot afford it?

Related posts:

Lack of childcare hurting Canada economically

School for Low-Income Kids: Opening Doors or ‘Educational Apartheid’?

Canada: Coalition Is Not A Dirty Word

Scandal-Ridden Canadian Government Likely To Face May Election

Annie blogs about the art and science of parenting at the PhD in Parenting blog.

Image credit: on flickr


jane richmond
jane richmond6 years ago

It helps but it doesn't solve the problem.

Keith Elliott
Keith Elliott6 years ago

Annie..It's easy to get agreement on almost any topic during an election. I see that the majority of posters agree with you.

I definitely do not. And here's why.

I don't know how you came up with the "at least $15,000 a year" but you seem to have neglected the fact that the students will need to live anyway, regardless of whether or not there is a subsidy available. Living expenses are NOT the same as education expenses.

The subsidy is intended to assist them with their education costs, which it will do nicely.

You may or may not know that there is a strike at Vancouver Island University currently, and the costs of attendance are quite well known locally. I think if you would be kind enough to relate either the $1,000 or the $1,500 grant to the cost of tuition, you would find it will amount to between 18% and 27%. Surely any student would be appreciative of this amount.

Geoffrey Y.
Geoffrey Y6 years ago

Canada's ecnomic today is relative ok in compare to our friend US but Canada was not running well for very long term in the past. Canadian middle class and small business lacking innovation which drives productivity the world stage. The current tax code is still too high for most small/middle companies, individule tax is also to high...we need very long term growth from elected reps and officiers, we need leadership!

Jay Evas
Jay Evas6 years ago

won't help.

Bon L.
Bon L6 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Kerrie W.
Kerrie Waldron6 years ago

Here in Sydney, we have similar fees to Canada. Overseas students are charged full fees but local are subsidised so that the costs are about $5-7,000 a year. If you pay "upfront" that is further reduced. However, if you choose to pay after being employed the entire amount is payable by the graduate before tax over several years (but only if the salary is high enough).

Although this makes tertiary education more accessible, it does have some unwanted side effects. Universities have been increasingly under pressure to be "profit motivated commercial" institutions. This results in large proportions of top fee paying foreign students (up to 30%) in the "best" institutions, marginalising local students (who often have higher grade point averages).

Nothing's perferct.

Lynn C.
Lynn C6 years ago

Sounds like a ill-conceived, poorly researched plan, that sounded good during a campaign...we know about that stuff in this country, don't we fellow Americans?

Joanne M.
Joanne M6 years ago

Everyone does not need a college education. There are many trades that need to be filled where the person is better off going to a vocational school. Other professions need only a 2 year college degree.

Way too many people have gone to college and gotten themselves deeply in debt only to find that when they go out to look for a job their degree really did not qualify them for anything.

For whatever reason, too many students go into general studies or humanities and no where near enough go into the hard sciences or biological sciences. There are many jobs going unfilled in the medical profession, in engineering etc. Many of these high paying jobs are going to people form other countries because we do not have enough students studying in those fields.

Blacktiger P.
Blacktiger P6 years ago

I think there should be MORE SHOP classes in highschool and college. All you need to do is watch HGTV's Mike Holmes to see what uneducated trades people can do to your home.Sadly this is not likely because the BA's are sited as the only way to go, so how about a BA in construction?Hmmm.

Robert O.
Bob B6 years ago

I'm a successful businessman with no interest in going back to university myself.

But I think the absolute best way the government could spend my tax dollars would be to pay for education all the way to PHD level for all Canadians under 40, not just Native Indians.

Of course paying for this would require cuts in other areas.

But the screaming, strikes, and protests over any cuts would make it impossible to do. Too bad.