Helping You Navigate Student Funding

June is Student Funding Month on our calendar. At this time of year, Vicars registrar Corrina Cornforth’s calendar is full of confidential one-on-one funding consultations with future Vicars students.

These free sessions, which happen in person or over video call, allow Corrina to help applicants navigate the sometimes complicated world of student funding.

Corrina has the experience and expertise to help them find the combination of loans, grants, and scholarships that can open doors for students. She’s passionate about this part of her job.

“I love talking about this stuff, dispelling all the myths and misunderstandings about government funding, and just getting down to making sure each student is getting what they need.”

Over the years, she has identified misconceptions that can make prospective students feel that going to school is unaffordable. But for Vicars students, it doesn’t have to be.

Lots of funding options available

Our blended-learning massage therapy program has full time status, so Vicars students in Alberta are eligible for all grants and loans available through the provincial student funding portal. This includes both provincial funding as well as federal loans and grants.

Blended learning involves fewer hours in a classroom, but it is still a full-time program. The Vicars massage therapy diploma requires around 30 hours a week, divided among interactive online learning, mandatory classroom time, and our teaching clinics. Alberta Student Aid recognizes this commitment and treats our applicants the same as applicants from conventional Monday-to-Friday schools and colleges.

Many of our students are also eligible for support through other sources, such as band funding, Veterans Affairs, and even WCB.

The options for students who live outside of Alberta vary depending on where they live—but Corrina knows her way around those systems, too. No matter where you live, a funding consultation can be incredibly useful.

Paying it back has never been easier

Did you know that federal student loans are now totally interest-free? And grads don’t start repaying any of the loan for six months, until after they have had a chance to start earning. Meanwhile, Alberta Student Aid allows a full year before payback must begin. The interest on Alberta student loans is discounted compared to bank consumer loan rates, too. (It is at the prime variable rate but can be locked into a fixed rate at any time. Have any questions about how that would apply to your loans? Ask them at a funding consultation!).

And if you’re one of the many Vicars students who are eligible for grants and bursaries, you don’t have to pay back that money at all!

What about family income?

Today’s student aid is not what it used to be. In a lot of ways, it’s better.

If you last went to school 10 or 20 years ago, you may be surprised to learn that student aid eligibility is no longer just tied to family income. Almost everyone is eligible for loans to cover at least some of their school costs; your family income only comes into play when calculating what support you get for additional living expenses as well as certain grants and bursaries.

Student funding is not charity

The purpose of government student aid programs is investing in you. It is available to everyone preparing for, or upgrading, a career. It is intended to pay tuition and ease the financial burden of supporting yourself and your dependents so you can focus on your studies. In the case of massage therapy programs, it is preparation for a satisfying career that is sustainable and well paid. RMTs are in demand all over Canada and that is not expected to change!

Apply early—and get it right

The Alberta funding applications are best tackled as soon as possible after they’re released in late June (the government does not announce the exact date in advance).

That’s because these applications are not just for loans; they determine your eligibility for grants and awards. Grants are first come, first served.

“There is a limited pot of grant money for each academic year,” explains Corrina. “And once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

To make sure you are considered for grants, you need to submit an application that is correct the first time. If it needs reassessment for any reason (such as missing information) you can still apply for loans, but you lose your eligibility for grants.

Corrina says that one of the most common errors is failing to list dependents. You can claim up to $724 a month for each child under 12, for example, without needing to collect and submit receipts.

We can help with that.

Without a navigator, the Alberta student funding website can be overwhelming. Although there is online guidance on how to complete aid applications, it is easy to make errors or underestimate your financial needs for the school year ahead.

Each year, we prepare our own a supplement to the information provided by Alberta Student Aid. This is a custom-made how-to-guide that walks you through each step of the application form, with screenshots and explanations. Everyone who has applied to the Vicars massage therapy program or is a student continuing to Year 2 receives this guide.

“They have the option to use the guide to complete their application; use the guide and then reach out to me to review it before they hit the submit button; or they can book a full one-on-one Zoom funding consultation to go through the application step-by-step together.” Corrina says.

“After they submit their applications, I continue to assist when needed with completing their loan agreements and submitting any additional documentation Student Aid may request on their behalf,” she says. “It takes some of the pressure off.”

As well as Alberta Student Aid, Corrina has experience with helping students access other provincial or territorial resources, band funds, Metis programs, assistance for members and dependents of the Canadian Forces, and more.

To book your student funding consultation, email or call 1-866-491-0574.

Kathleen Thurber
Author: Kathleen Thurber

Kathleen Thurber is an Edmonton-based health and science writer.