Support for Students and Recent Graduates Impacted by COVID-19


April 22, 2020

The Government of Canada continues to take action to help Canadians and businesses facing hardship as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Learn more about the latest measures at Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.

The Government of Canada recognizes that students and recent graduates are being significantly affected by the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, the number of post-secondary working students, aged 15-29, dropped by 28% from February 2020.

As many post-secondary students adapt to the new reality brought on by COVID-19, they are concerned about the effect of the pandemic on their ability to continue their studies, secure and retain summer employment, pay their bills, and save for tuition in the fall. Additionally, students who are about to graduate might struggle to find employment in their field of study, which may in turn, have a negative impact on the value of their education over the long term.

The government has announced a series of measures as part of its COVID-19 Emergency Response Plan that will help Canadian students and recent graduates overcome these challenges and support their future success. These represent an investment of approximately $9 billion.

Canada's Student Population

  • In 2017-18, there were an estimated 2.1 million students enrolled in public Canadian post-secondary institutions with 1.3 million registered in universities and 700,000 in colleges – 1.6 million studied full-time and 500,000 studied part-time.
  • Each year around 350,000 students graduate high school.
  • Each year around 25 per cent of 19 year olds go on to college and around 36 per cent of 21 year olds attend university.

Supporting Students through Expanded Student and Youth Programming

The government is creating and connecting students to meaningful employment and service opportunities, with:

  • The launch of the "I Want to Help" Platform. The new platform will provide helpful information about available service opportunities and ways to get involved and support efforts of young Canadians to pursue service positions.
  • $153.7 million for the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy to help youth develop the skills and gain the experience they need to successfully transition into the labour market. Funding will support a range of measures in high-demand sectors such as agriculture, technology, health and essential services, creating over 6,000 additional job placements.
  • Changes to the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy's Canada Summer Jobs program, including increased wage subsidies, expanded eligibility and new flexibilities for employers, to ensure it can continue to support up to 70,000 student job placements in 2020-21. These new measures are being supported by a reallocation of existing resources.
  • $80 million for the Student Work Placement Program to support up to 20,000 post-secondary students across Canada to obtain paid work experience related to their field of study.
  • $15 million for the Supports for Student Learning Program to serve an additional 14,700 youth through support to complete high school and transition to post-secondary education in order to help ensure that vulnerable children and youth do not become further marginalized as a result of COVID-19.
  • Additional support for the Canada Service Corps to expand support for meaningful youth service projects that have positive impacts in communities across Canada, including increasing the number of microgrants from 1,800 to 15,000, and providing stipends to participants.
  • $40 million to Innovation, Science and Economic Development to support Mitacs in order to create 5,000 new job placements. The Business/Higher Education Roundtable (BHER) will also create a further 5,000 to 10,000 new student placements, by reorienting existing federal support and building online tools.
  • $75.2 million to provide additional distinctions-based support to First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation post-secondary students.
  • $291.6 million to support up to 40,000 student researchers and post-doctoral fellows through the federal granting councils. Funding would support a one-semester extension for eligible students whose research scholarships or fellowships end between March and August 2020 and who intend to continue their studies. It would also provide a 3-month extension in funding for holders of federal research grants to support eligible trainees and staff paid out of these awards. These extensions cannot be combined with other income supports.
  • $7.5 million to support student and post-doctoral research placements within the National Research Council.

Enhancing Student Financial Assistance for Fall 2020

The Canada Student Loan Program provides student financial assistance to post-secondary education students. With more than 700,000 student currently benefiting from these grants and loans, it has the broadest reach of federal student programs.

Due to the economic impacts of COVID-19, students may be unable to secure and retain summer employment, and save for school in the fall. As a result, many students are worried about their ability to manage tuition fees and the cost of books for the next school year.

To address additional financial needs of students caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the government proposes to change the Canada Student Loan Program’s eligibility requirements in 2020-21 to allow more students to qualify for supports and be eligible for greater amounts, including doubling the non-repayable Canada Student Grants for full and part time students, as well as for students with disabilities and students with dependents, in the coming academic year. These measures are expected to expand the reach of the program and benefit more than 760,000 students at an estimated cost of approximately $1.9 billion over two years starting in 2020-21.

By announcing this now, the government is providing more financial certainty for students preparing to enter or continue their post-secondary education this fall. The Canada Student Loans Program (CSLP) is delivered in collaboration with 10 participating jurisdictions. Students in Quebec, Northwest Territories and Nunavut do not receive CSLP support as these jurisdictions run their own student financial assistance programs. Additional compensation will be offered to provinces and territories that do not participate in the CSLP.

Canada Emergency Student Benefit

For post-secondary students and recent graduates who are ineligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit or for Employment Insurance, but who are unable to find full-time employment or are unable to work due to COVID-19, the government proposes to introduce the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB). The CESB would provide $1,250 per month for eligible students from May through August 2020, and $1,750 for students with dependents and those with permanent disabilities.

This new grant would provide income support to post-secondary students who will experience financial hardship over the Summer due to COVID-19. The CESB will be delivered by CRA and more details will be communicated.

Canada Student Service Grant

While the COVID-19 pandemic will limit employment opportunities for students, it presents an opportunity for students and youth to mobilize and take part in national service activities that can provide valuable labour market and skills development experiences, while giving back to their local communities.

To encourage students to participate in the COVID-19 response, the government will launch a new national service initiative to recognize students' significant contributions to the COVID-19 efforts, and provide support through a new Canada Student Service Grant which will provide up to $5,000 to support student's post-secondary education costs in the fall.

More details will be made available on the I Want to Help platform over the coming weeks, including more detailed information about eligibility, the levels of funding available under the grant, how to apply for a national service position, and how applications will be assessed.

International students

The Government of Canada will remove the restriction that allows international students to work only a maximum of 20 hours per week while classes are in session, provided they are working in an essential service or function, such as health care, critical infrastructure, or the supply of food or other critical goods.

International students and their employers should consult Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada's Guidance on Essential Services and Functions in Canada during the COVID-19 Outbreak to determine if the work the student is doing would allow them to work more than 20 hours per week during the academic session. This temporary rule change will be in place until August 31, 2020.

Statistics Canada reported that in 2017–2018, more than 11,000 international students were enrolled in health-care programs at Canada's universities and colleges, representing about 4 per cent of health-care students at that time.

Canada's COVID-19 Economic Response Plan Overview

These measures are part of the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan - a comprehensive plan to help ensure that Canadians can pay for essentials like mortgages, rent and groceries, and to help employers continue to pay their employees and their bills during this time of uncertainty.

Total Impact (2020-21, $ Millions)1
Protecting Health and Safety  
Immediate Public Health Response (of which, $25 million for PHAC in 2019-20) 50
COVID-19 Response Fund (of which, $500 million for Provinces and Territories in 2019-2020) 1,025
Funding for Personal Protective Equipment and Supplies (of which, $200 million in 2019-20) 2,000
Support for International Efforts 110
Health and Social Support for Northern Communities (critical priorities, air carriers, food subsidy enhancement) 115
Total - Protecting Health and Safety 3,299
Direct Support Measures  
Support for Individuals  
  Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)2 35,000
  Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)2 73,000
  Enhanced GST Credit 5,515
  Enhanced Canada Child Benefit 1,927
  Canada Student Loan Payments 190
  Lower RRIF Minimum Withdrawal 495
  Waiving the Employment Insurance Waiting Period for People in Imposed Quarantine 5
Support for Students and Recent Graduates  
    Youth Employment and Skills Development Programs 728
    Canada Student Loans (over two years) 1,944
    Canada Student Emergency Benefit 5,250
    Canada Student Service Grant 912
Support for Vulnerable Groups  
    Support for Indigenous Communities 305
    Support for the homeless (through Reaching Home) 158
    Support for women’s shelters and sexual assault centres, including in Indigenous communities 50
    Support for Seniors (of which, $9 million in 2019-20), Children and Youth 17
    Support for Food Banks and Local Food Organizations (of which, $25 million in 2019-20) 100
    Support for Charities and Non-Profits Serving Vulnerable People 350

Support for Businesses
  Temporary Business Wage Subsidy 975
  Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) - 25% incentive4 13,750
  Alternative Credit Support for Businesses Unable to Access other Emergency Measures (RDE, Community Futures, Futurpreneur Canada, Industrial Research Assistance Program) 1,232
  Enhancements to the Work-Sharing Program 12
  Support for Indigenous Businesses and Aboriginal Financial Institutions 307
  Support for Northern Businesses 15
Support for Sectors  
  Emissions Reduction Fund for the Oil and Gas Sector (over two years) 750
  Cleaning up former Oil and Gas Wells 1,720
  Support for the Air Transportation Sector (of which, $33.1 million in 2019-20) 331
  Support for Food Inspection Services 20
  Support for Food System Firms that hire Temporary Foreign Workers 50
  Support for Cultural, Heritage and Sport Organizations 500
  Support for the Broadcasting Industry 30
Total - Direct Support Measures 145,637
Tax Liquidity Support  
CRA/CBSA liquidity support to businesses and individuals:  
      Income Tax payment deferral until September 55,000
      Sales Tax Remittance and Customs Duty Payments Deferral 30,000
Total – CRA/CBSA liquidity support 85,000
Grand Total - Protecting Health and Safety, Direct Support Measures and CRA/CBSA Liquidity Support 230,637
As % of GDP 10%
Other Liquidity Support and Capital Relief  
Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) (through BDC and EDC):  
    Small and Medium-sized Enterprise Loan and Guarantee program 40,000
    Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) (not including 25% incentive) 41,250
    Credit and liquidity support for the Agricultural Sector 5,200
Credit and liquidity support through the Bank of Canada, CMHC and commercial lenders3 200,000
Total – BCAP, other credit and liquidity support 286,450
Capital Relief (OSFI Domestic Stability Buffer) 300,000
Grand Total - BCAP, other liquidity support and capital relief 586,450
1 Total impact in 2020-21, unless otherwise specified. Differs from fiscal cost on an accrual basis, which is lower.
   Numbers may not add due to rounding.
2 Estimates. Breakdown between CERB and CEWS may vary based on observed take-up.
3 Figures represent lower bound estimates based upon announced credit and liquidity support to date.
4 Preliminary estimates. Actual impact/costs may vary based on observed take-up.

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