How will you pay for tuition, residence and books? There are funding sources out there, but you have to know where to look.
5 key components to applying for funding:
- Start in your high school graduating year. You need to get started as soon as possible, so you will not miss the deadlines.
- Do your research. Learn as much as possible from your high school counsellor and others about the funding application process.
- Meet with disability services office staff at the post-secondary institution you are interested in.
- Adhere to the deadlines.
- Apply for student funding, scholarships, bursaries, etc.
How much money do you need?
It is important to have a realistic idea of what your costs will be. You will be able to find out the cost of tuition, student fees and residence from your college or university's website or from their admissions office.
You will also need to remember to factor in costs like rent, utilities and food, if you are living on your own. And even if you are living at home, you will still have costs like books, transportation, clothing, etc. Preparing a budget can help you get a realistic idea of your expenses, so you can figure out how much you need for the year.
Where do I get information about student financial aid?
The best source of information on student funding is always the student financial aid office at your college or university. Regulations change fairly frequently, but they will have the latest information. They can:
- Provide you with information on student loans, scholarships and bursaries.
- Provide you with the necessary application forms or the website where you can find them.
- Answer any questions and help you fill in forms if you are having difficulty.
- Provide you with necessary information if you are applying for loans and you are going to school in a different province than your permanent residence.
What funding is available?
A good resource on all funding sources for students with disabilities is available in the Financial Aid Directory of NEADS (National Educational Association of Disabled Students), a Canadian organization serving students with disabilities. The directory includes descriptions of funding programs, and contact information by province/territory. It also lists relevant websites. Topics covered in different sections of the directory include:
- Canada Student Loans.
- Employability Assistance for Persons with Disabilities.
- Provincial student assistance programs.
- National and regional scholarships, awards and bursaries.
- Campus-based scholarships, awards and bursaries.
Student loans are offered by the federal government and the provincial/territorial governments. The federal and provincial loans programs are combined in some provinces and territories, and separate in others. Some provinces and territories (Quebec, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut) do not participate in the federal program at all, and instead operate their own program.
The good news is there is usually only one application form, regardless of what level of government administers the loan program. Application forms are available online or through your college or university student financial aid office. You will need to meet certain requirements to qualify for a loan, and all the applications have strict deadlines.
All student loans are interest-free while you are in school, but must be repaid when you leave school or graduate.
How Full-time or Part-time Status Affects your Student Loan
The availability of student loans is tied to your status as a full-time or part-time student. Provincial student loans, for example, are only available to full-time students.
However, it is important to remember that for students with a disability, the course requirements for full-time and part-time students are significantly reduced. You can take 40% of a full-time course load and still be eligible for a full-time student loan; you can take 20% to 39% of a full-time course load and still be eligible for a part-time student loan. This is important because many students with learning disabilities find it better to carry less than a full-time course load.
Note: Requirements may vary from province to province.
For more information on student loans, visit the federal government's CanLearn website. It provides information on Canada Student Loans and links to the websites for all provincial/territorial student loans programs. Student loan application forms can be found on these provincial/territorial sites.
Canada Study Grant for Students with Permanent Disabilities, and Canada Study Grant for High-need Students with Permanent Disabilities
Two other important funding options are provided specifically for students with disabilities, including students with learning disabilities.
The Canada Study Grant for Students with Permanent Disabilities provides up to $8,000 per year to pay for education-related equipment or services that you might require (e.g. a computer, tutors). This grant is awarded on the basis of financial need and proven relation to your disability. To qualify, you must apply for a full- or part-time student loan. If you are found not eligible for a student loan, you may still be eligible for a grant under certain circumstances.
If you have been allocated the maximum student loan and still cannot cover your education and living costs, the Canada Study Grant for High-need Students with Permanent Disabilities provides up to $2,000 per year to help you meet the cost of tuition, books and living expenses. It is possible to qualify for both study grants.
Unlike a student loan, study grants do not need to be repaid. There may also be provincially/territorially-funded grants or bursaries for students with disabilities. Your student financial aid office can provide you with more information.
Apprenticeship Incentive Grant (AIG)
The AIG is a taxable cash grant of $1,000 per year for registered apprentices, once they have successfully completed their first or second year/level (or equivalent) of an apprenticeship program in one of the Red Seal Trades. The AIG aims to help apprentices cover some expenses related to tuition, travel and tools. To find out if you're eligible for the AIG grant and how to apply for it, visit Service Canada’s website.
Bursaries are also awarded on the basis of financial need and do not have to be repaid. They may be available from your college or university, community groups, service clubs, etc. Speak with the student financial aid office at your college or university about what is available.
Provincial and Territorial Grants and Bursaries
Consult the websites of Provincial and Territorial Student Assistant Offices to learn more about grant and bursary programs offered in your province or territory of residence.
More information on bursaries is available here.
Scholarships are awarded on academic merit. They may be a few hundred dollars or a significant sum of money. Unlike student loans, they do not have to be repaid. Colleges and universities award a wide variety of scholarships, so you will want to talk to the student financial aid office about what is available. There are also other scholarships available specifically for students with disabilities, including learning disabilities.
The Learning Disabilities Association of Canada has 4 scholarships for students with learning disabilities, each specializing in a specific area - the arts, apprenticeship programs, general program and graduate programs.
If you are living in Ontario, the Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario offers the Gloria Landis Memorial Bursary. It is awarded to a mature individual with learning disabilities, enrolled in a post-secondary program or accredited vocational institute, who has been absent from full-time education for a period of 3 years. The Roy Cooper Scholarship is awarded to a high school student who has a documented learning disability and will be attending a university or college, and majoring in an engineering and/or physical sciences discipline.
Will receiving a loan, bursary or scholarship affect my disability income?
The rules for each type of disability benefit, welfare benefit and pension are different. It is a good idea to let your disability benefits worker know you are considering higher education and find out what rules apply. They can also tell you what supports you are entitled to.