Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Two folks who read the previous blog post, Matthew Hayes and Nathan Hanscom, took issue with the limits in one of the assumptions I made around the 3000 or so students who already got the maximum bursary and thus, had free tuition already. 

My working assumption was (and is) that people who get a small federal bursary, then borrow $11,000, and then still have enough need for the $4,000 bursary very likely do so because they need the money that year to afford to pay bills and go to school.  While they may appreciate the non-repay ability down the road, the driving factor is that they need the cash. Therefore, the fact that the new bursary comes before the loan won't matter to them, because it's the same total award. 

Nathan and Matthew make the point that now students at least have the option of taking the bursary money and then not even asking for a loan. You don't have to borrow money to fill out a form and get your tuition bursary. Matt further makes the point that this may keep students from working two jobs and cutting corners on learning.  We share the experience of teaching at STU and we both agree that would be a good thing.

I admit that I am unconvinced. In my time (admittedly ten years ago) as an administrator at STU who handled student emergency assistance and financial advising, my experience was that most students who work and borrow do so because of financial need at the time. There were a few who worked only to reduce their reliance on student loans, but most students borrowed and worked because even after paying tuition they had to pay rent, food, transportation and yes, some of the small joys of socializing and going to movies. The debt that accumulated was worrying to them and reducing it would make them happy, but the behaviour was driven by short-term need. 

Changes to family contribution rules would allow more access to the bursaries that are still on the back end and help these students. I'm just unconvinced until I see it that the student who needed to max out their loan won't still need to do to pay eight months of living expenses. 

But time will tell, and Matthew and Nathan brought a scenario to my attention that is worth more consideration than I originally gave it. I hope lots of students who can afford to take the bursary and no more do so. And I love the feedback and hearing angles I may have missed...that is the fun part of writing these analyses so keep it up.

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