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Alberta announces grant expansion to help low-income nursing students

A stock photo of health-care workers during a surgery. (Pixabay.com/sasint) A stock photo of health-care workers during a surgery. (Pixabay.com/sasint)
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The provincial government has announced $8.5-million in funding to assist low-income nursing students.

The money will be added to Alberta's existing New Beginnings Bursary, created last year with the intention of increasing access to post-secondary education for those with financial constraints.

The government says with the money, up to 1,700 students will be will be eligible for a one-time, non-repayable $5,000 bursary.

In a news release, the UCP says recipients in nursing programs will be automatically selected from student loan applicants who meet program and financial eligibility criteria.

"We want to ensure every student can gain the knowledge and skills they need to build successful careers at home and secure Alberta’s future," said Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said,  

"By increasing education opportunities for Albertans, we improve the chances of retaining home-grown talent," added Health Minister Jason Copping.

Tim Rahilly, president and vice-chancellor at Mount Royal University, says increased financial supports like the bursary help students focus on their education.

MRU nursing student Nancy Tran says being able to access affordable education was vital when she decided to become a nurse.

"This new funding through the New Beginnings Bursary will help so many more nurses access the training they need to go on to have successful careers in the healthcare sector," Tran said.

Lethbridge College nursing student Addison Janzen says the announcement made her feel relieved.

"It's a very hard program to go through because it's very demanding, so a lot of us either don't have the opportunity to work or we're overworking ourselves just trying to make it through.

"It's very exciting to see that the government is supporting us financially now,” Janzen said. 

Students in other programs, however, would to see similar supports and bursaries made available to them.

"How about bringing back our supports that institutions have had to cut because of their budget cuts from the government?" asked Lethbridge College Students Association vice president of finance Niculina Jensen.

"All these other things help out students a lot.”

By the end of the 2023-24 academic year, the province says 3,400 low-income students will have benefited from the bursary, at a total investment of $17 million.By the end of the 2023-24 academic year, the province says 3,400 low-income students will have benefited from the bursary, at a total investment of $17 million.

NDP SLAMS BURSARY AMID POST-SECONDARY CUTS

NDP advanced education critic David Eggen says the announcement is pennies on the collar compared to the cuts and increased costs students have faced under the UCP.

"Tuition at the University of Calgary has increased 33 per cent since 2019, with international students facing a 40 per cent increase in costs. This includes an eight per cent increase to nursing tuition next year and comes at a time when we are already facing a shortage of nurses," Eggen said.

"At the same time, the UCP has cut almost $700 million from post-secondary institutions, and most students don’t qualify for affordability payments as the cost of groceries, utilities, and auto insurance continues to increase under the UCP."

Eggen said if elected in the upcoming provincial election, the NDP would invest in post-secondary institutions in order to make education "more affordable, while building a skilled workforce and resilient economy."

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