Alberta government expands grant to low-income nursing students

The Government of Alberta is expanding the eligibility of a bursary for 1,700 more low-income student nurses.

In an announcement Wednesday, the government says the additional students will be eligible for a one-time, non-repayable $5,000 bursary through the “New Beginnings Bursary.” With the additional $8.5 million used to expand the bursary, the total investment is now $17 million.

Previously, 1,700 students applied and received funding late in 2022, bringing the total to 3,400 students that have received the bursary or are eligible.

“I think we can all agree there’s incredible power in education, and post-secondary education allows individuals to create a better future for themselves and their community. And sometimes financial barriers can get in the way of individuals being able to do that,” Demetrios Nicolaides, minister of advanced education, said at Mount Royal University in Calgary.

“But if they had the ability to access post-secondary education, they could create a new start for themselves.”

He says there are a few requirements for students that apply, which are based on income levels and family size.

Students would be automatically eligible if they have an income threshold set at $33,000 or less, and a family of two would be eligible at $46,000.

“Of course, it scales depending on size,” Nicolaides said.

The additional funding is part of the province’s Healthcare Action Plan to address the demand for nurses in Alberta.

When it comes to more support for students, Nicolaides says “more is coming” for post-secondary students that are struggling right now.

“There are additional measures and additional supports currently being explored and discussed specifically for post-secondary students,” he said.

However, he did not provide a date for when, only that the province will make an announcement in the “coming weeks.”

Steps taken to ‘strengthen free speech’ in Alberta

Meanwhile, Nicolaides announced that post-secondary institutions must provide a report card on free speech efforts on campus on Feb. 3.

The announcement came as a former Mount Royal University professor had a talk at the University of Lethbridge cancelled in late January.

As a result, the province promised it would “strengthen free speech” on campuses.

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When asked Wednesday about the threshold of hate speech on campus and how the definition may change with time, he said it’s not up to him and the government.

“It’s up to our judicial process, our provincial courts, and federal courts to provide court interpretations and rulings,” Nicolaides said.

“As both our federal courts and provincial courts have done for the past decade, for the past several decades. They continue to receive challenges, questions about the interpretation of those … goalposts, and I think it’s best left to those experts to provide interpretation.”

He also says students should decide for themselves to “listen to a speech or not” or “go and refute the arguments” of a speaker they disagree with.

“One of the important guiding principles that most of our universities and colleges have in their statements is that the university or the institution should not be the decider, it should not be the body or the institution that is deciding or that is shielding students from ideas or opinions that may be unpopular or even offensive,” he said.

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