Régys Caron, Le Journal de Montréal
Last year, Quebec saw a windfall of $550 million from the federal government to help fund loans and bursaries for CEGEP and university students. The money, however, has been used for other purposes.
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) confirmed that a check for $275 million was issued in January 2011, followed by a second one, in the same amount, this past January. The money is issued under the Canada Student Loans Program. Although Quebec does not take part in the program, the province is entitled to "alternative payments which are intended to support its own student financial assistance programs," HRSDC indicated via email.
Federal contributions cover the years 2009-2010 and 2010-2011. HRSDC has not confirmed if these transfer payments will be renewed for the year 2011-2012. Instead of using it to fund the Loans and Bursaries Program, Quebec puts the money into its consolidated revenue fund, which is used for a variety of government operations, the Department of Finance confirmed.
CEGEP and university student associations are asking the Charest government to use at least part of the federal money to improve the loans and bursaries system.
"This has been part of our demands for the past several years. We realized last year that the federal transfer had increased by $70 million, and we received another $70 million increase this year. This money should be going to students. We need to improve the system of loans and bursaries - disadvantaged students rely on it," said Martine Desjardins, president of the Quebec Federation of University Students (FEUQ).
The financial aid system for CEGEPs and universities has a budget this year of $568.7 million, up $62.6 million from 2011-2012.