VANCOUVER -- B.C.'s budget for 2020 was released Tuesday, and with it, the province announced a new grant for low and middle-income post-secondary students.

In last year's budget, the province announced an end to interest on all new and existing student loans. This year, the province says it is supporting students further through a new access grant.

With the new grant, low- and middle-income students may be eligible for as much as $4,000 in funding to help cover the costs of tuition. Students enrolled in programs that are two years or less will also be eligible.

"Starting in September 2020, the new B.C. Access Grant will provide upfront funding to more than 40,000 students who may otherwise struggle to pay for post-secondary education," Carole James, B.C.'s finance minister, said in her budget speech Tuesday.

"This will help people land good-paying jobs in high-demand fields like early childhood education, health care and the skilled trades."

The new grant will be available to part-time students and students who are taking programs that are shorter than two years. Currently, students who are in a shorter program don't have access to the federal version, the Canada Student Grant.

"This grant is about investing in our shared future," James said. "A future where B.C.'s workforce is flexible, innovative and ready to thrive in a world shaped by advancing technology, global trade and climate action."

Eligible students who apply for financial assistance through StudentAidBC will be assessed for the B.C. Access Grant automatically and won't need to submit a separate application.

Students who get grant funding aren't limited to using the money for tuition. Instead, it can also be used for basic living expenses while in school.

As outlined in the 2020 budget, the grant was created with a $24-million investment over three years and by redesigning some existing grant programs.