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This article was published 14/3/2017 (1352 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The provincial government has boosted post-secondary scholarships and bursaries by $1.75 million this year as promised in the election campaign, but the money comes with catches.

This year schools must raise $2 privately for every $1 of public cash, unlike the previous system of matching dollars.

The questions on the minds of people working in the post-secondary education system are how much universities and colleges will receive in operating grants in the April 11 budget, and what Finance Minister Cameron Friesen will do with the legislated cap that limits tuition fee increases to cost of living.

The money is totally inadequate for students' needs, said Michal Barkman, Manitoba representative of the Canadian Federation of Students.

"Average student debt in Manitoba sits at $19,000 right now, and students are in dire need of comprehensive access programs to make post-secondary education more attainable," Barkman said.

"Unfortunately, this investment is only a fraction of the type of public funding that is needed to make getting an education and reducing student debt possible. Scholarships and bursaries remain out of reach for many Manitobans and are not an effective tool for holistically increasing access."

Barkman said it is a weakness of the Manitoba Scholarship and Bursary Initiative that schools can award financial assistance based on academic merit as well as on financial need, reducing the pot for lower-income students.

Education Minister Ian Wishart said when schools raise matching dollars this year, all the money must go directly to students and cannot be placed in endowment funds that generate only annual interest.

University of Manitoba president David Barnard welcomed word that an additional pot of almost $700,000 will be available this year to the U of M, which has the greatest ability to raise money, and is in the middle of a $500-million capital campaign.

"More students will be able to achieve their goal of attending university through financial assistance facilitated by the generous support of our government and private donors," Barnard said in a prepared statement.

The Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology (formerly Winnipeg Technical College) and four private schools —Canadian Mennonite University, Booth University College, Providence University College and Steinbach Bible College — share in funding this year.

The province said Monday that the CMU will get up to $75,000.

NDP education critic Wab Kinew lauded Wishart for continuing to provide the Business Council of Manitoba with $150,000, which Kinew said goes entirely to helping indigenous students.

"The elephant in the room is tuition," Kinew said. "If they raise tuition, this money is a drop in the bucket.

"Changing the ratio makes it harder for the colleges and universities to fundraise," said Kinew, a one-time senior administrator at the University of Winnipeg. "The universities and colleges are probably close to maxed out on what they can raise."

Government officials said that when the Manitoba Scholarship and Bursary Initiative required one-for-one matching dollars, the schools were always able to access all the money available.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca