Back to Blog

Paying for School in a Pandemic

This pandemic has been rough in more ways than one. Graduations cancelled, jobs disappeared and many lives lost. So you might be thinking: there is no way to pay for school in a pandemic. While post-secondary education under these circumstances definitely has its challenges, we want to encourage you: attending your dream university is still possible. There may be a few additional hurdles, but with some careful planning, you can do it! In this article, we are going to break down some important resources that will help to enable your journey through post-secondary.


Okay, so let’s start with the basics. The Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) is a program from the federal government that is meant to help students who are in financial need in light of COVID-19. As of June 22nd, 2020, recent high school graduates, recent post-secondary graduates and students currently enrolled in post-secondary programs are eligible for the benefit. You may qualify if you are:
a)     unable to work due to COVID,
b)    having trouble finding work because of COVID,
c)     making less than $1,000 at your current job.
For all CESB information, you can visit Link #1 and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website.

Next up is the Ontario Student Assistance Plan (OSAP) (this is Ontario’s program visit the Government of Canada website for information on all federal and provincial programs).

OSAP helps students cover expenses such as tuition, books & school supplies, compulsory student expenses charged by the school, and living expenses (if you are a full-time student). Support through this program comes as a mix between a grant (which you do not have to repay) and a loan (which you have to begin repaying six months after you finish school).

With any application for OSAP, you are automatically considered for both loan and the grant, however, you can decline the loan once your application is approved. The amount of OSAP funding you get is dependent on your personal financial situation, your course load (full-time/part-time) and how much your overall education expenses actually cost. In response to COVID, the government has paused OSAP repayments between March 30th, and September 30th of 2020. They have also announced that the loans will not accrue interest during this period.
The Canada Student Loan Program (CSLP) is the federally funded portion of student financial aid programs. Due to COVID-19, the federal government has doubled the amount of support in grants(the non-repayable part) that students will be receiving from the CSLP this upcoming school year. That means that students will be receiving a lot more support for education this year and more money in their pockets!


Here’s one that you may not have heard about yet: how about paying for some of your tuition using loyalty points? Better yet, how about paying for some of your tuition with someone else’s loyalty points? Both are possible through HigherEdPoints! This service allows you to convert points from programs like Aeroplan into tuition dollars. Chances are that HigherEdPoints has already partnered with your school, so the dollars coming from your points can go straight into the tuition fees account with your registrar or into your student loan account (you can repay your loans at any time). If you have a parent, grandparent, cousin, older sibling and/or family friend with points they may not be using, be sure to give them a shout! Using points could be a huge help in reducing your tuition costs. Link #2 below will take you to information about HigherEdPoints.

Summer Jobs

Summer jobs? Why would I be thinking about summer jobs right now? Isn’t everything closed? Well, to put it simply, no! While some industries have been hit particularly hard in recent months, others have enjoyed a boom in business due to current events. Medical equipment suppliers, grocery stores, product delivery services, certain fast-food chains and food delivery services are just a few examples. While many of these jobs do carry some level of increased risk, it can certainly be mitigated by taking the right precautions. Ok, but who’s hiring in the middle of the summer? You would be surprised. If you do an earnest search for jobs in your area, it could end up putting more money in your pocket, and give you a new, productive way to pass the time! Online job boards like LinkedIn or Indeed are always good places to start for that sort of thing. The government has set up an entire Job Bank too where there were over 6,000 jobs for youth in Toronto alone!

The Canadian Student Service Grant (‘I Want to Help’) Program

The Canadian government has just launched a program with the goal of helping non-profit institutions in their fight against COVID-19 while simultaneously supporting young adults. The ‘I Want to Help’ (CSSG) program incentivizes registered post-secondary students and recent graduates to get involved in their communities this summer by providing grants between $1,000 and $5,000 as recognition for their service. Even if you are employed, or receiving CESB, you may still qualify for the CSSB. The monetary value of the grant is proportionate to the number of hours you work. More information about this program can be found in link #3 below.

Mitacs Internships and Canada Summer Jobs 

The Canadian government has also announced a $40 M investment into creating 5,000 new Mitacs internships for post-secondary students. Mitacs is a non-profit organization that facilitates collaborations between the private sector and universities to work on unique projects. Usually, these types of internships are for people doing masters or doctorate degrees, but this new funding will allow for the expansion of their programs for undergraduate youth, as well as to students in professional programs like Law, Medicine and MBA.
The government is also investing in Canada Summer Jobs (which is part of the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy Program) to add 10,000 jobs for students between the ages of 15 and 30. Information about this program can be found in Link #4 below.


We understand that for many students, the money gained from summer employment simply is not enough to go the distance during the year. Part-time jobs help keep students going financially and they will be affected by the shift towards schooling online, but don’t lose hope! Some jobs in the industries mentioned above may still be available where your school is located, or wherever you call home if you are deciding to do school online. Further, some of the student jobs that were available in the various offices and departments of your school may have simply moved online. The only way you’ll know the status of those jobs is to reach out to them and see!
The coronavirus may be the first real crisis that you have dealt with in your life as a young adult, and situations like these can definitely be overwhelming. However, we believe that students who know the resources available to them are well-equipped to find their way through this. Even if you decide not to attend post-secondary this year, that is okay too. At least now you will be ready for when you decide to make the move.


2.  HigherEdPoints:
3.  I Want to Help Program:

This article was researched and written by Arinze Imasogie. Arinze is a mechanical engineering student from Queen’s University who acts like a Swiss Army knife for HigherEdPoints! From blog posts to marketing solutions, Arinze plays a part in anything and everything as needed.