Is college or university for you?

Choosing your program

Applying for admission

Services for students with disabilities


Being your own advocate

Funding your education

Choosing your courses

Your first few weeks

Academic accommodations

Succeeding in your studies

Finding a support network

Managing your illness

If you're having trouble

Challenges for mature students

Considering graduate studies?

You're on your way

Web resources



Comments? Questions?

"I applied for a Canada Studies Grant and received a grant. I received $5000 to buy a computer, so now I have this top of the line computer that has all the software so I can do all my homework from home . . . it's helped me tremendously."

"It turns out that it's pretty reasonable when you do it one class at a time."

Funding your education

How much money do you need?
Where do I get information about student financial aid?
What funding is available?
Will receiving a loan, bursary or scholarship affect
my disability income?

Paying for your medication
Taking a job to pay your way

Now comes the bottom line. How will you pay for tuition, residence and books? There are sources of money out there, but you have to know where to look. There are also a few wrinkles you need to watch for.

How much money do you need?

It's important to have a realistic idea of what your costs will be. You'll 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.

But those are just the obvious costs. You'll 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.

Check it out

The Canadian government has two online tools to help you budget for school. An online Education Cost Calculator can help you calculate the cost of your year at college or university. The Online Budget Calculator can help you plan your budget taking into account both your expenses and your income from student loans, savings, etc.

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. Information and 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. In some provinces you can apply online for free and avoid the application fee.
  • 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?

Check it out

A good resource on all funding sources for students with disabilities is available in an online financial aid directory provided by NEADS (National Educational Association of Disabled Students), a Canadian organization serving students with disabilities.

Student loans
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) don't 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. Check these out well in advance.

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 percent of a full-time course load and still be eligible for a full-time student loan; you can take 20 to 39 percent of a full-time course load and still be eligible for a part-time student loan. Note: Requirements may vary from province to province.

This is important because many students with psychiatric disabilities find it better to carry less than a full-time course load.

Check it out

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 the 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/Canada Study Grant for High-need Students with Permanent Disabilities [6]
Two other important funding options are provided specifically for students with disabilities, including students with psychiatric disabilities.

The Canada Study Grant for Students with Permanent Disabilities provides up to $8000 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 can't cover your education and living costs, the Canada Study Grant for High-need Students with Permanent Disabilities provides up to $2000 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/teritorially-funded grants/bursaries for students with disabilities. Your Student Financial Aid Office can provide you with more information.

Check it out

More information on Canada Study Grants is available here. Applications for study grants can be found on the website for your provincial/territorial student loan program.

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. You will want to talk to the Student Financial Aid Office at your college or university about what is available.

The federal government has a special bursary called the Canadian Millennium Scholarship. You will automatically be considered for this bursary if you fill out the relevant section on your student loan application.

Check it out

More information on bursaries is available here.

More information on Canadian Millennium Scholarships is available here.

Scholarships are usually awarded on academic merit. They may be a few hundred dollars or a significant sum of money, and 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 psychiatric disabilities.

Check it out

This scholarship search site provides an easy way to search for scholarships offered by organizations other than your college or university.

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) offers several scholarships for students with disabilities: AUCC Scholarship for Students with Disabilities and the Mattinson Endowment Fund Scholarship for Disabled Students

If you are living in British Columbia, the Canadian Mental Health Association has a scholarship, the Lorne Fraser Educational Fund, especially for students with mental illness living and studying in that province.

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's 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.

Paying for your medication

Paying for medication can be a real burden, and doing without is usually not an option. Some colleges and universities offer a health plan, either included as part of your student fees, or at an additional cost. It is worth checking this option out. In some cases, up to 80 percent of the cost of prescription drugs are covered (to a certain yearly limit).

This coverage may only be available to full-time students, but if you are carrying less than a full-time course load you may still want to check to see whether you qualify. Coverage and eligibility may also vary between institutions and from province to province. Note: Some drug insurance programs may not cover medication for pre-existing conditions. It's important to read the fine print.

Taking a job to pay your way

You may be considering one obvious solution to paying for your education - working part-time.

You need to think long and hard before taking this route, especially if you plan to take enough courses to be considered full-time. Trying to complete school work and hold down a job can be stressful for anyone. You need to think realistically about what you can manage. Remember that your well-being is your most important priority.