Student financial aid

Current and Completed Projects:

Student Financial Assistance for Indigenous Learners

SRDC is compiling and reviewing available data on access and usage of CSLP and provincial and territorial student aid programs by Indigenous learners. The broad aim is to support assessment of the effectiveness of existing student financial assistance under CSLP as it relates to Indigenous learners. Federal funding for First Nation and Inuit learners under the Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP) has been capped since 1996, and program eligibility requirements can be limiting. Indigenous learners who do not receive PSSSP – or whose needs are not fully met – can apply for student financial assistance (SFA) from the federal and provincial/territorial governments, as a mix of student loans and grants. The work considers the demographic characteristics of clients identified as Indigenous learners, their aid received, loan repayment, and default rates. The deliverables will aid these jurisdictions' ongoing review of how effectively the system works to improve PSE access and affordability.

Start-end date: August 2017 - March 2018
Sponsor: Employment and Social Development Canada

High School Student and Parent Perceptions of OSAP

This project examines the relationship between aspirations towards postsecondary education and students/parents’ perception and knowledge of the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP). The project administers surveys before and after students’ compulsory Grade 10 career studies class, and tracks postsecondary access and student financial aid use over four years, to evaluate provision of new interventions including information on OSAP and the likely actual costs and benefits of postsecondary education. The evaluation framework involves a clustered randomized trial.

Start-end date: August 2017 - September 2021
Sponsor: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario

The relationship between education savings accounts and postsecondary education aspirations

SRDC is undertaking an original analysis of its unique “Future to Discover” dataset to help answer questions on how best to maximize the impact of education savings programs such as Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) and associated government grants, such as the Canada Education Savings Grants (CESG) and the Canada Learning Bond (CLB) on access to postsecondary education (PSE) for students from low-income family backgrounds. Specifically, this new study sheds light on whether the positive educational outcomes associated with these approaches arise because (a) acquiring accounts changes families’ orientations towards PSE over time or (b) the funds in accounts help students overcome financial barriers at the point of paying for their studies.

The findings of this study will inform the search for new ways to increase the take up rate of RESPs, CESG, and CLB. The study will assess factors that lead to the opening of accounts; the role of parental involvement and level of education; the relationship of family income to educational attainment of the child; sources of personal contributions to RESPs; and the relationship of educations savings to debt and the availability of student financial assistance in relation to the determination to participate in PSE. In addition, the analysis explores the role of trusted intermediaries and sources of information regarding decision-making related to PSE. The study findings will be structured to provide concrete lessons learned from the research for optimal next steps in the development and delivery of RESPs, CESG, CLB, and related programming.

Start-end date: April 2017 - December 2017
Sponsor: Employment and Social Development Canada

Evaluation of Student Financial Assistance Programs for Aboriginal Learners

SRDC is undertaking an evaluation to provide recommendations on improving access to postsecondary education for Aboriginal learners. Key questions include: whether Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP)-eligible First Nations and Inuit students who are turned down for PSSSP funding apply for provincial and federal student financial assistance; whether these learners are more likely to abandon or delay their plans for postsecondary; whether Aboriginal learners are more debt-averse than non-Aboriginal learners, including variation between populations; whether certain groups are more likely to apply for and receive assistance; whether Aboriginal learners who receive assistance are more likely to default on loans, and if so, what are the reasons for this.

These questions are being answered through a combination of three research and evaluation activities: reviews of existing research evidence on learners' financial barriers to accessing post-secondary education and available sources of financial aid, as well as evidence on debt aversion; analysis of administrative records on applicants and recipients of federal and provincial aid; and primary data collection with Aboriginal people. The project will conclude with recommendations for federal and provincial governments to improve post-secondary education access for Aboriginal learners, including an impact analysis of proposed program changes.

Start-end date: March 2017 - February 2019
Sponsor: British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education

Relationship between PSE participation and household income

The current decade has seen very little new research into the relationship between household income and PSE participation for Canada in general and Ontario in particular. The effects of recently adopted policies aimed at increasing PSE accessibility on this relationship, such as the reforms to the Ontario Student Assistance Program, are consequently poorly understood. This project uses a time series of harmonized long-form data from the Canadian Census 1996-2016 to examine the relative impact of household income and parents’ human capital on their children’s post-secondary education participation.

Start-end date: March 2017 - October 2018
Sponsor: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario

Assessing Impact of Federal Student Financial Assistance Eligibility on Targeted Part-Time Programs at Public Post-Secondary Institutions

Under the Canada Student Loans Program, part-time post-secondary programs that do not have a full-time equivalent option are ineligible for federal student financial assistance (SFA). Little is known about the impacts of this policy on student demand for these types of programs, potential demand if they were SFA-eligible, and the capacity of post-secondary institutions to deliver them. This project includes an assessment of the federal legislation, regulations, and policies that oversee SFA program eligibility, a jurisdictional scan of targeted programs at public post-secondary institutions across Canada, and a market demand assessment. The findings will inform recommendations regarding students' accessibility to SFA for part-time programs.

Start-end date: November 2016 - March 2017
Sponsor: British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education

Life After High School Ontario – Phase III

The purpose of Life After High School is to improve the rates at which high school students transition to post-secondary education by reducing the non-financial and financial barriers students face. The program applies lessons from behavioural economics to provide all Grade 12 students at selected Ontario secondary schools with practical support applying for post-secondary education and financial aid. Students are guided through online tools and video in the process of selecting a post-secondary program of their choice, applying for a place in that program without incurring a fee, and applying for financial aid. As options are considered for the delivery of a streamlined Life After High School program in Ontario in future years, SRDC is running the program in 69 low-transition schools in 2016-17.

Start-end date: September 2016 - June 2017
Sponsor: Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development

Long-term Education and Labour Market Impacts from the Future to Discover Project

Postsecondary access has been the dominant priority in Ontario’s higher education policy over the past three decades. With this project, SRDC is undertaking data collection and analysis to help answer critical questions about the impacts of postsecondary access policies. The study provides answers to the question "When students at the margin of participating in postsecondary education actually go, what happens to them?". This study uses data on 5,400 students from SRDC’s Future to Discover Project and links these to tax records.

Start-end date: January 2016 - September 2017
Sponsor: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario

Learning and Labour Market Information Symposium

SRDC organized a learning and labour market information (LLMI) symposium in May 2016 to engage Federal/Provincial and Territorial government senior officials in a discussion with subject matter experts on ways and means to improve the availability and quality of data and tools to inform student choice. In addition to planning the agenda and facilitating the symposium, SRDC conducted an environmental scan, and prepared a synthesis document for circulation prior to the event.

Start-end date: December 2015 - June 2016
Sponsor: Employment and Social Development Canada + Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities

Long-term impacts of the Life After High School program in BC

This project extends analysis from SRDC’s previous study of the Impact of Lowering Non-financial Barriers on Access to Post-secondary Education (Life After High School) in British Columbia. The intervention tested a sequence of three workshops delivered to high schools’ Grade 12 students intended to encourage the students to apply for post-secondary education and related student financial aid. A total of 50 BC high schools with low rates of students entering post-secondary education are involved. Impacts on students’ enrolment and persistence in post-secondary education, use of student financial aid and program choices are investigated across key subgroups defined by Aboriginal status, gender and high school achievement.

Start-end date: January 2015 - January 2016
Sponsor: Max Bell Foundation

PSE-related financial literacy among disadvantaged youth

This project aims to address information barriers to post-secondary education (PSE) access faced by disadvantaged youth – specifically, the lack of engaging online resources to learn about the benefits of PSE and how to afford it. Together with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada (BGCC), SRDC is conducting an evaluation project that tests the effectiveness of new, online financial literacy resources related to PSE and targeted to low-income youth. The resources are provided through Rogers Raising the Grade, a new after-school program offered at 35 Boys and Girls Clubs across Canada, and build on an existing collaboration between SRDC and BGCC. Funding for this project is provided by the TD Financial Literacy Grant Fund administered by Prosper Canada.

Start-end date: October 2013 - April 2015
Sponsor: Social and Enterprise Development Innovations (SEDI)

Further Analysis on the Impacts of Needs Assessment Simplification

This project extends work seeking to identify options to simplify student financial aid (SFA) applications in Canada by assessing the scope for limiting or modifying the data elements currently collected to determine SFA offers. The analysis involves data from actual applications and awards. SRDC simulates aid offers to assess the role played by each data element in determining the level and composition of actual aid offers made and runs sensitivity tests for different student sub-groups to assess their vulnerability to the removal or modification of each element. The simulations and sensitivity tests are undertaken at both a national and a provincial level. The main deliverable is a range of simplification options along with the pros and cons of each, including a range of possible effects on program costs.

Start-end date: July 2013 - December 2013
Sponsor: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

Life After High School Ontario – Phase II

A pilot project to develop and test streamlined options for delivery of the Life After High School program in Ontario. The program options provide Grade 12 students at selected Ontario secondary schools with practical support applying for post-secondary education and financial aid. Students are guided through online tools and video in the process of selecting a post-secondary program of their choice, applying for a place in that program, and applying for financial aid. In the initial stage of the project, SRDC provided consulting services and a set of recommended models for test, including consideration of a variant model for Crown Wards. Following the selection of preferred models, the second stage commenced delivery of the options during the 2013-14 school year. Delivery models vary in order to assess the impact of paying the application fee of either the Ontario College Application Service (OCAS) or the Ontario Universities Application Centre (OUAC) and different forms of facilitation. This research project seeks to learn which models are most effective in supporting all Grade 12 students at a school to make applications for post-secondary studies and financial aid, and in increasing enrolment in further education.

Start-end date: April 2013 - March 2016
Sponsor: Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities

Extension of Future to Discover data collection and analysis

The evaluation of a demonstration project involving 4,400 high-school students in New Brunswick that is testing, through a randomized trial, an alternative form of financial support and enhanced career education as ways to increase youth participation in post-secondary education, especially youth from low-income families. This extension permits the study to collect data for the analysis of outcomes through to the completion of post-secondary education and early labour market experience.

Start-end date: March 2013 - December 2017
Sponsor: New Brunswick Education and Early Childhood Development

Manageable Student Debt Threshold Research

This project assesses current understanding on levels of manageable student debt. It begins with a review of existing theoretical and empirical evidence, both national and international, and an environmental scan of the existing practices in defining and measuring manageable student debt. Current private and public sector practices on definition, calculations, and measurements of manageable debt are gathered through key informant interviews with private sector loan providers, credit agencies, and debt counselling representatives. Data analysis of individual level microdata from Statistics Canada is used to estimate various manageable student debt thresholds, corresponding to those identified in the initial review.

Start-end date: January 2013 - March 2013
Sponsor: Alberta Enterprise and Advanced Education

Predicting Student Loan Delinquency and Default

This project develops a model to predict student loan delinquency and default based on borrower characteristics using administrative data. The goal is to improve the targeting of at-risk borrowers and improve the efficiency of program resources devoted to reducing student loan default. The work involves documenting the theoretical and empirical evidence to date, a thorough data assessment to identify key variables, statistical modelling of loan delinquency and default, calculating probabilities for different borrower characteristics, and comparing again to the literature to identify discrepancies and new findings.

Start-end date: October 2012 - March 2013
Sponsor: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

Needs Assessment Simplification

This project seeks to identify options to simplify student financial aid (SFA) applications in Canada. It does this by assessing the scope for limiting or modifying the data elements currently collected to determine SFA offers. The main analysis involves data on actual applications and awards. SRDC simulates revised aid offers to assess the role played by each data element in determining the level and composition of actual aid offers made and runs sensitivity tests for different student sub-groups to assess their vulnerability to the removal or modification of each element. The simulations and sensitivity tests are undertaken at both a national and a provincial level. Based on these findings and a review of the literature, a range of simplification options are presented along with the pros and cons of each, including a range of possible effects on program costs.

Start-end date: September 2012 - March 2013
Sponsor: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

Session on Student Financial Aid Research

To provide expert advice on research priorities for the student financial aid system in Canada at a session hosted by the Intergovernmental Consultative Committee on Student Financial Assistance (ICCSFA).

Start-end date: January 2012 - February 2012
Sponsor: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

An Overview of Financial and Social Supports for Students with Dependants in Canada

This project fills knowledge gaps pertaining to existing policy and program levers in place to respond to the needs of students with dependants. The initiative entails jurisdictional policy review to identify the range of federal, provincial, and territorial social and financial programs available to students with dependants and provide an in-depth analysis of the extent to which these programs interact with each other, their degree of integration, and identification of existing program gaps that may prevent these students from undertaking and completing post-secondary education. The analysis informs policy decision-making on the accessibility issues faced by post-secondary students with dependants.

Start-end date: October 2011 - March 2012
Sponsor: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

Non-Standard Delivery of Post Secondary Education and Student Financial Assistance

The majority of PSE students undertake programs of study which are delivered in a standard format — typically they attend full-time, on campus programs, during fall-winter semesters. A segment of PSE students is, however, opting to pursue learning opportunities outside of this standard model by participating in a wide range of non-standard formats, including online or e-learning, modular programs, and compressed or extended semesters. The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that student financial assistance (SFA) fully addresses the needs of all segments of the PSE student population, including those who wish to pursue PSE through non-standard programming. The purpose of this project is to examine the role that non-standard programs play in PSE and how SFA can help support student participation in such programs.

Start-end date: October 2011 - March 2012
Sponsor: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

Life After High School in Ontario

A pilot project to test an innovative program called Life After High School in Ontario. Starting in October 2011, the program provides Grade 12 students at selected Ontario secondary schools with practical support applying for post-secondary education and financial aid. In three on-line facilitated workshops at 43 schools, students are guided through the process of selecting a post-secondary program of their choice, applying for a place in that program, and applying for financial aid. The application fee of either the Ontario College Application Service (OCAS) or the Ontario Universities Application Centre (OUAC) is covered by the program. This research project seeks to learn whether supporting all Grade 12 students at a school in making real applications for post-secondary studies and financial aid increases enrolment in further education.

Start-end date: May 2011 - March 2015
Sponsor: Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities

Assessing the Impacts of the New Canada Student Grants Program

This project consists of a program evaluation study of HRSDC’s new Canada Student Grants Program (CSGP). Introduced in 2009, the CSGP consolidates all previous federal student grants. The new grants aim to improve access to post-secondary studies and to reduce costs for students from low- and middle-income families, students with permanent disabilities, part-time students, and students with dependants. The project involves a literature review of relevant policies and programs, an evaluation of the feasibility of the available data and research methods to assess the CSGP, and a final report containing an empirical analysis of the effectiveness of the CSGP in achieving its stated objectives.

Start-end date: February 2011 - March 2012
Sponsor: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

Financial Literacy of Low-income Students

This project seeks to inform the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario about the relationship between financial literacy and post-secondary access for low-income youth, and what programs may be implemented to help youth overcome the financial literacy barrier in attending PSE. The first part consists of a literature review of research related to the financial literacy of low-income high-school students with respect to their decisions about post-secondary attendance. The second part consists of an environmental scan of programs that have been implemented to raise financial literacy among low-income youth with respect to post-secondary attendance.

Start-end date: January 2011 - May 2011
Sponsor: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario

Relationship Between Funding, Learning Objectives, and Choice of Instructional Programs and Courses for Adult Learning

Making use of the micro-data from the 2008 Access to Supports and Education Training Survey and the Adult Education and Training Surveys, this study documents existing theoretical evidence and conducts descriptive and multivariate analysis on the sources of funding for Canadian adult learners, with a focus on the relationships with learning objectives and instructional programs and courses chosen.

Start-end date: November 2010 - March 2011
Sponsor: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

Impact of Lowering Non-financial Barriers on Access to Post-secondary Education (Life After High School)

The project aims to develop, implement, and test an intervention to find new ways to lower non-financial barriers on access to post-secondary education. The intervention targets British Columbia high schools with low rates of students entering post-secondary education. A sequence of three workshops delivered to the schools’ Grade 12 students have the intent of encouraging the students to apply for post-secondary education and related student financial aid.

Start-end date: March 2010 - March 2013
Sponsor: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada + Carthy Foundation

Labour Market Information to Help High-School Students Access Post-secondary Education: The “Life After High School Experiment”

Concept paper to assess whether the process of providing information to high-school students about labour markets, their post-secondary options, potential post-secondary program acceptance, and eligibility for financial aid can improve knowledge acquisition and human capital acquisition.

Start-end date: March 2009 - May 2009
Sponsor: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (Policy Research)

Feasibility Study for Evaluating Debt Management Measures

A study exploring the feasibility of using random assignment designs to test various debt management measures administered by Canada Student Loans, including the Repayment Assistance Program (RAP) in the fall of 2009.

Start-end date: October 2008 - December 2008
Sponsor: Human Resources and Social Development Canada

Challenges and Opportunities Facing Canada’s Student Financial Assistance System

A concept paper profiling future challenges to Canada’s post-secondary education and student financial assistance systems, in the context of enrolment trends, labour market demands, returns to a post-secondary education, and current policy tools.

Start-end date: September 2008 - December 2008
Sponsor: Human Resources and Social Development Canada (Canada Student Loans)

Willingness to Pay for Post-secondary Education Among Under-represented Groups

A study to evaluate high-school students’ debt aversion or willingness to incur debt to access post-secondary education. The study focuses in particular on the decision-making process of youth from low SES families, Aboriginal families, and rural sectors, and on first generation students. Participants are tested for numeracy, risk, and time preferences. A sample of 1,400 students in 14 schools across 4 provinces took part in this project.

Start-end date: May 2007 - December 2009
Sponsor: Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation
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Research Support for Dissemination: Early Analyses of Future to Discover Baseline Data

In advance of planned publication, the Future to Discover evaluation team undertook early analysis of Future to Discover’s two recruited cohorts from New Brunswick and one cohort from Manitoba, prepared tables for three conferences and presented at the conferences.

Start-end date: December 2005 - April 2006
Sponsor: Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation

Future to Discover Pilot Project (FTD)

The evaluation of a demonstration project involving 5,400 high-school students in New Brunswick and Manitoba that is testing, through a randomized trial, an alternative form of financial support and enhanced career education as ways to increase youth participation in post-secondary education, especially youth from low-income families. To date, SRDC has published the Future to Discover Pilot Project: Early Implementation Report (2007), Future to Discover: Interim Impacts Report (2009), Future to Discover: Post-secondary Impacts Report (2012), Future to Discover: Fourth Year Post-secondary Impacts Report (2014), Future to Discover: Fifth Year Post-secondary Impacts Report (2016), and Future to Discover: Sixth Year Post-secondary Impacts Report (2016).

Start-end date: August 2003 - December 2013
Sponsor: Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation
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Design Options for Demonstration Projects to Improve Participation in Post-secondary Education

Start-end date: May 2002 - June 2002
Sponsor: Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation

Fostering Adult Education: The Efficient Use of Loans, Grants, and Savings Incentives

An examination of the barriers to adult education and the relative attractiveness of alternative forms of student financial assistance to encourage investment in education.

Start-end date: April 2002 - December 2004
Sponsor: Human Resources Development Canada (Applied Research Branch and Canada Student Loans Program)

Potential use of an Economic Experiment to Examine Issues Related to Student Financial Aid

Start-end date: December 2001 - December 2001
Sponsor: Human Resources Development Canada

Will the Working Poor Invest in Human Capital?

An examination of people’s willingness to delay consumption, to invest in education for themselves or their children, and their reaction to risk.

Start-end date: September 2001 - February 2002
Sponsor: Human Resources Development Canada

Student Financial Assistance Programs

Report for HRDC’s Lessons Learned Series.

Start-end date: October 1997 - October 1997
Sponsor: Human Resources Development Canada