Grant program replaces Millennium Scholarships – Federal Budget – Grant program replaces Millennium Scholarships
Conservatives estimate about 250,000 students to qualify for funding
February 27, 2008
Susan Delacourt, Ottawa Bureau

OTTAWA–The federal Conservative government is setting up a new $350 million Canada Student Grant Program to replace the Millennium Scholarships established by the Liberals nearly a decade ago.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government argues that its new system will be friendlier to students and more respectful of provinces’ constitutional power over education.

The government estimates that almost 250,000 students will be able to take advantage of the new grant program in 2009-10 – more than 100,000 more students than are now helped by the Millennium Scholarships.

“We must ensure that the next generation of Canadians has the opportunity to excel in this increasingly competitive world,” states the text of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s budget speech.

Constitutionally, the provinces have authority over education in Canada, but Ottawa has long used its financial muscle to get into the education business, too – most notably in the 1998 “education budget” by the Liberals, which established the Millennium Scholarship foundation.

This budget also attempts to extend Ottawa’s influence into the education system, though Flaherty and finance officials say the new system is more mindful of federal and provincial powers.

The new grants program will operate more like the 40-year-old Canada Student Loans system, finance officials say, and unlike the Millennium program, which is run by an arm’s-length foundation, it will be run by Ottawa directly.

It also will give money up front to students, before they enter the academic year, so it’s easier for them and their families to plan their academic costs. The Millennium program primarily operated by refunding part of students’ loans after they completed the year.

The Canada Student Grants program will begin in 2009, a year before the Millennium program officially winds down, and will rise from $350 million in the first year to $430 million by 2012-13.

The budget also sprinkles other money for education and students:

A new doctoral scholarship program, named after former governor-general Georges Vanier, worth about $25 million over five years.

About $123 million to “streamline and modernize” the Canada Student Loans Program. The improvements are supposed to make it easier for students to manage their loans online and help make loans more available to part-time students. A big chunk of the improvement money will also go toward making repayment easier for those having trouble repaying loans.

$3 million over two years to help graduate students study abroad.

A program to establish Canada Global Excellence Research Chairs at Canadian universities, at a cost of about $21 million over two years.

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