Navigating loans, funds, and grants can be difficult on top of the already challenging process of beginning (or continuing!) post-secondary education. Let’s start with some basic information:
A loan is funding that needs to be repaid to the loan issuer. In the case of StudentAid BC, repayment begins six months after your full-time studies end.
A grant is a non-repayable fund that a government or organization gives to an individual. The term can be interchangeable with the word “bursary.”
A bursary is a non-repayable sum of money often awarded to individuals demonstrating financial need.
A scholarship is a non-repayable sum of money often awarded to individuals demonstrating strong academic (or athletic or other) achievement.
Some funding requires an application and specific eligibility criteria. Other types of financing, such as access grants, may be automatically assessed for during loan applications. Review BC financial support options here and Canada wide scholarship options here.
For students in BC who have a disability, a particular grant/bursary option exists to help cover tuition and educational services costs. Sometimes referred to as “Appendix 8” funding through StudentAid BC, this application for permanent disability can help students access significant funding sources to help them reach educational goals.
So what exactly is it?
- It is funding for post-secondary students who have a documented permanent disability (including, but not limited to): chronic health impairments, psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression, ADHD, autism, cognitive impairment, visual/hearing/speech impairments, learning disabilities, as well as other diagnosed conditions).
- You receive non-repayable grants and bursaries, inclusive of Canadian and BC grants of $6000+ per program year for full-time students.
- You can access a services and equipment grant for up to $20000 to purchase exceptional education-related services and/or equipment (e.g., assistive technology, computers, tutors, academic strategists, digital recorders/readers, notetaking services, etc.).
- And, it can also include a reimbursement of up to $3500 for a Learning Disability Assessment (Note, a specific learning disorder needs to be clearly diagnosed through a psycho-educational assessment. For this reimbursement, you will need to provide a receipt of payment).
Who can access it/What are the eligibility requirements?
- Canadian citizens, permanent residents or have protected person status (see here for basic eligibility requirements).
- Have a valid Canadian social insurance number.
- Be a resident of British Columbia.
- Be pursuing full-time studies as your primary occupation (40% course load in each term registered, review your specific institution on how many credits is considered 100% full time).
- Be enrolled in an eligible program of study at an eligible post-secondary institution (you can review designated institutions here).
- Be able to demonstrate financial need (note that financial need rates differ if you are a dependent or independent student. Suppose you are classified as a dependent student and will be receiving partial funding from parents or guardians. In that case, there is an eligibility threshold that is based upon family size and annual income. See the StudentAid BC Student Guide for more information about calculating financial need).
- You will need to apply for a student loan through StudentAidBC (your loan application number is required on Appendix 8 form).
- You need to have a documented disability (see above for a list of possible impairments).
How can someone access this funding?
- You will need documentation of your disability, and this can be done in two ways. Either have a qualified medical professional (i.e., physician, psychologist, nurse practitioner, etc.) in Canada complete section 4 of the form OR provide a copy of a psycho-educational assessment document.
- Suppose you are also hoping to access the services and equipment grant (see the Accessibility Program User Guide for possible equipment options). In that case, you will also need to include a copy of your course registration and create a cost estimate that includes a rationale for services/equipment (e.g., a notetaker for three courses @ $500/class).
- Further, suppose you are hoping to use the services and equipment grant. In that case, you will need to connect with a designated school official/disability coordinator at your post-secondary school of choice to review and sign off on services.
- You will need to upload your completed document (with a copy of the psycho-educational assessment if applicable) to your StudentAid BC dashboard.
- Note, it is best to have your form and documents organized (if possible) a few months before starting studies so that funding comes through in time and services and equipment can be arranged prior to courses beginning.
This blog post is by no means a comprehensive document but is hopefully a worthwhile read to get you familiar with the process and a direction to get started. Connecting with your post-secondary institution’s centre for accessible learning/disability services to meet with an advisor is highly recommended, as they are the ones who can best direct you to services and help you with your application.