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Can students collect EI? It depends ...

Very recently, Blue Canvas was asked by a 20-something year old whether she would be eligible to collect EI upon quitting her full time job to start a full time university program in the fall.  Our immediate response was, “sorry, no”.  However, after some thought, we thought we should really investigate if there is anyway Canada’s EI program can be utilized by full time students. 

What's the scoop on students collecting EI? 

If you were to leave your full-time job for university, your employer will give you a Record of Employment, (ROE) which is used by Service Canada to determine your eligibility for and to calculate your benefit amounts.   Students should contact a Service Canada counsellor after leaving their employment so they can be assessed on their eligibility.  There are some courses that are approved by the provincial government and your attendance in these courses/programs will allow you to collect EI while still in school.  Most of these programs are for training in trades. For some programs, you will be given a reference code to provide to Service Canada and they will assess your situation for EI benefits on a case by case basis.  There are also some training programs in which the tuition will be fully funded by EI, so a call to Service Canada for your specific details would certainly be in order. 

One of the major qualifications for EI support eligibility is that a person must be available to work at a job should a suitable one come along.  Each week, the applicant is asked specific questions on whether they have been receiving any training and whether or not they are available to work.  Obviously if a student is going to university or college full time and is not in a provincially approved training course they would not meet this eligibility requirement for EI and most likely be denied.   

Let’s be honest – sometimes people lie.  They say they are looking for work when they really are attending school.  This is truly underhanded. Should Service Canada audit your file and learn of your dishonesty, you would be subject to repay all monies disbursed.  Lying to the government is NEVER a good idea and even more so when starting out in life.  Our advice – don’t do it.   

What are the next steps? 

So what is a hard-working, albeit poor student to do?  Blue Canvas suggests whatever your situation and whatever your program, you should give Service Canada a call once newly unemployed just to be sure of your EI eligibility as they will assess your situation on a case by case basis.  If you are denied, check out the other government programs on loans, grants and scholarships listed below to help you bridge the monetary gap between your educational requirements and your dream career.  Here are some links to start.  Good Luck! 




Wendie Karlowsky
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