Going back to school is now more affordable thanks to Skills Boost

News Release

Government of Canada meeting the unique needs of adult learners looking to upgrade skills

January 24, 2018         Windsor, Ontario             Employment and Social Development Canada

Innovation is changing how we live and work, bringing with it new challenges and new opportunities for working Canadians. When more Canadians can afford to go back to school to upgrade their skills or even pursue a new career path, our middle class becomes stronger and more resilient. That’s why, today, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, launched Skills Boost, a new plan to give adult learners the support they need to succeed in the workforce.

Through a new $1,600-per-year Canada Student Grant and new flexibilities for Employment Insurance, going back to school will be within reach for 43,000 more Canadians in the middle class, as well as those working hard to join it.

Skills Boost includes several measures announced in Budget 2017 that will be available for the school year beginning this fall as part of a $287.2 million three-year pilot project. Students eligible for the Canada Student Grant for Full-Time Students and who have been out of high school for at least 10 years will receive an additional $1,600 per school year ($200 per month) in top-up funding. An estimated 43,000 low- and middle-income Canadians will benefit from the top-up funding in the 2018–19 academic year. And, for the first time, working and unemployed Canadians whose employment situation has significantly changed from the previous year can see their current income used to assess Canada Student Grant eligibility. This means a person who experiences a drop in income won’t be unfairly automatically disqualified for assistance based on their previous year’s earnings.

Skills Boost also means expanded access to Canada Student Grants for part-time students and students with dependent children, to further break down financial barriers to post-secondary education. These measures are expected to benefit Canadian women in particular, who often strive to improve their career prospects while balancing family responsibilities. Women represent nearly two-thirds of the Canada Student Loans Program’s part-time recipients, while approximately four out of five students receiving the Canada Student Grant for students with dependent children are women.

Support is also coming this fall for Canadians who find themselves out of work and want to go back to school.  Today, if an unemployed worker is receiving Employment Insurance (EI) benefits, they may lose their eligibility for those benefits if they return to school or undertake training, which interferes with their availability for work, without the necessary referral from designated authorities. Starting in fall 2018, an unemployed person will be able to go back to school to get the training they need to find a new job—without fear of losing the EI benefits she needs to pay rent and buy groceries.


“As an adult learner myself, who went back to school as a single mom of two children, I know that adult learners can face challenges to pursuing post-secondary education—not only because of the cost of education itself but also because of the financial pressures and time constraints of supporting our families. Our government has Canadians covered, no matter their circumstance—whether they are going to college or university for the first time, returning to school or upgrading their skills.”
– The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour

“Through Budget 2017, we are making better use of existing flexibilities within the Employment Insurance program to help eligible claimants go back to school while remaining eligible for the EI benefits they need to support themselves and their families. This allows us to deliver on our commitment to grow our economy, strengthen the middle class and help those working hard to join it.”
– The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development

"Mature students have become an increasingly significant portion of St. Clair's enrolment during the past decade or so. Many of them come to us with challenging circumstances as they pursue their educations. They often need to brush up on new technology and techniques before commencing their studies, many of them are raising families, and many of them are also attempting to accommodate part-time or even full-time jobs in their complicated lives. This new, extremely generous assistance offered by the federal government will ease many of the pressures on these students. And providing them with a more affordable and accessible education will ultimately improve their lives in immeasurable ways."
– Patti France, President, St. Clair College

Quick Facts

  • The pilot project top-up grant funding will be prorated based on the length of the study period. For example, those registered for an eight-month school year will receive $1,600, while those registered for a 12-month school year will receive $2,400. This funding will be provided on top of any other grants the student qualifies for.

  • Using a working or newly unemployed Canadian’s current income rather than the previous year’s earnings means they could become eligible for income-tested Canada Student Grants, including up to $3,000 for the Canada Student Grant for Full-time Students as well as the top-up funding.

  • To receive Canada Student Grants, students must apply to their province or territory of residence to receive financial assistance for the 2018–19 school year. For example, as of November 8, 2017, students in Ontario can start applying to the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) to receive both provincial and federal assistance for the 2018–19 academic year. Students who have already applied for OSAP will be eligible for this funding.

  • The top-up funding is available to full-time students pursuing an undergraduate degree, certificate or diploma of at least two years in duration at a designated post-secondary institution who have been out of high school for at least 10 years.

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Matt Pascuzzo
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour

Media Relations Office
Employment and Social Development Canada
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