Definitions for students
Your educational institution uses the following definitions when preparing your tax certificate. If you have any questions regarding the information provided on the tax certificate you received, contact your educational institution directly.
Designated educational institution
Designated educational institutions include:
- Canadian universities, colleges, and certain other educational institutions
- Canadian educational institutions certified by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) providing courses that develop or improve skills in an occupation, other than courses designed for university credit
- universities outside Canada where the qualifying student is enrolled in a course that lasts at least three consecutive weeks and leads to a degree at the bachelor level or higher
- universities, colleges, or other educational institutions in the United States that give courses at the post-secondary school level if the qualifying student is living in Canada (near the border) throughout the year and commutes to that institution
Students are ordinarily accepted as being in full-time enrolment if the university regards them as such. A student is considered a full-time student when they regularly attend a college, university, or other educational institution that offers courses at a post‑secondary school level.
Full-time attendance begins at the start of each academic period. This period is usually from September to April.
A student is also considered a full time student if they were enrolled in a qualifying educational program and one of the following situations apply:
- The student attended only part time and is eligible for the disability tax credit for the year.
- The student attended only part time because they had a mental or physical impairment certified in a letter by a medical doctor, nurse practitioner, optometrist, audiologist, occupational therapist, psychologist, physiotherapist, or speech language pathologist, but the student is not eligible for the disability tax credit. The educational institution is certifying that the student, although enrolled on a part time basis, is taking courses from a qualifying educational program.
The student is not considered to be in full time attendance at a university outside of Canada if they are taking courses by correspondence (which includes courses where assignments are submitted electronically).
If the student is taking courses online, they will be considered to be in full time attendance only if the program requires the student to be in virtual attendance, on a full time basis, for classes and other course related activities.
Guidelines to determine if a student is considered a part‑time student include:
- the student is enrolled in a specified educational program
- evening classes are taken
- courses are taken only by correspondence
- the student attends classes during the day, however, the student is carrying a minor course load while at the same time devoting the majority of their time to other activities such as employment
Post-secondary school level
Generally, in Canada, for a course to be considered to be at the post‑secondary school level:
- the course should provide credit towards a degree, diploma or certificate
- the course would normally require the completion of secondary school as a prerequisite for taking the course
It is generally assumed that a course is at the post‑secondary school level if the education ministry for the province in which the course is given considers it to be at that level.
Qualifying educational program
A qualifying educational program is a program that lasts at least three consecutive weeks and requires a minimum of 10 hours of instruction or work in the program each week (not including study time), at an educational institution that is:
- a Canadian university, college, and certain other educational institution
- a university outside Canada where the qualifying student is enrolled in a course that lasts at least three consecutive weeks and leads to a degree at the bachelor level or higher
- a university, college, or other educational institution in the United States that give courses at the post-secondary school level, if the qualifying student is living in Canada (near the border) throughout the year and commutes to that institution
The 10 hours spent on instruction or work includes lectures, practical training, and laboratory work. It also includes research time spent on a graduate or post-graduate thesis.
An individual undertaking a postdoctoral fellowship is not considered to be enrolled in a qualifying educational program.
A qualifying student is an individual who meets all of the following requirements:
- in the month, is enrolled in either:
- a qualifying educational program as a full-time student at a designated educational institution
- a specified educational program at a designated educational institution that requires the student to spend 12 hours or more in the month on program courses
- if requested by the Minister, provides a certificate containing prescribed information from their educational institution as proof of enrolment. For the list of authorized certificates, see Guide P105, Students and Income Tax.
- is at least 16 years old by the end of the year if they are enrolled in one of the following programs to obtain or improve their skills in an occupation:
- a program (other than a program at a post-secondary school level) at a designated educational institution that is a Canadian university, college, other educational institution
- a program at an educational institution certified by the Minister of Employment and Social Development Canada to provide courses (other than courses designed for university credit) to obtain or improve a person’s skills in an occupation
- is enrolled in a program at the post-secondary level if living near the border of the United States and commuting to a designated educational institution in the United States
Specified educational program
This is a program that lasts at least three consecutive weeks and would be a qualifying educational program if the hours‑per‑week time commitment were met, as described in the definition of a qualifying educational program.
A program is not considered a qualifying or specified educational program if the student receives, from a person with whom they deals at arm’s length, a grant, reimbursement, benefit, or allowance for that program.
Instruction or work includes lectures, practical training, and laboratory work. It also includes research time spent on a graduate or post graduate thesis.
For more information, go to Canada Revenue Agency, or see Income Tax Folio S1-F2-C1, Qualifying Student and the Education and Textbook Tax Credits.
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