Fed watch!

Students Need More, Government Pays Less

The Government of Canada has released an Actuarial Report (http://www.osfi-bsif.gc.ca/eng/office/actuarialreports/index.asp?) on the Canada Student Loans Program. This report is designed to predict what the Student Loan program will cost up to the year 2025 and what kind of effects it will have on students. The results are not pretty.

To start with, the number of students expected to be taking advantage of student loans will rise from 43% of students attending post-secondary to 55%. Or in other words, over half of the students attending will be forced to rely on some sort of government funding that they will eventually have to repay. While there is nothing wrong with this in principle, the difficulty starts to arise when you look at more of the numbers.

According to the report, tuition rates are expected to rise at an average of 3% above inflation each year. In contrast, wages are expected only to rise an average of 1.1%. This means that students are going to have to take out more money on loans just for tuition, and also probably means that future students’ payments will be a larger portion of their pay-cheques. In addition, the report says that, currently, about 43% of students on Canada Student Loans have needs that meet or exceed the maximum allowable. By the end of the period under study, they predict that this number will rise to approximately 77%. Or in other words, nearly four out of five students on student loans will wind up being short every month to meet what they need to live. Since we already know that over half the students are going to be requiring student loans, that means that about 40% of students won’t have enough money to live on while they go to school and will still be saddled with a huge debt load when they leave.

These numbers are dependant on several assumptions about the future, but perhaps the most disturbing one is that the people making the report assumed that loan limits would not increase over the 25 year period. This assumption may not be true, but I would tend to assume that a group undertaking a report commissioned by the government would have reasonable access to the government’s plans in the areas concerned. Is this a frightening hint of what is intended for post-secondary funding? Perhaps it is time we let our government know that post-secondary education is not a secondary issue. Repeated studies have shown that a better educated populace means a better economy, less usage of health-care and social welfare systems, less reliance on government pension programmes, and a stronger, more tolerant and diverse culture as well. A little encouragement for students, rather than punishing debt-loads, might be in order.

New Research Chair at Athabasca University

Congratulations to Dr. Olugbemiro Jegede (http://www.chairs.gc.ca/english/profile/viewprofile.cfm?ID=1029) in receiving a Tier 2 Research Chair (http://www.chairs.gc.ca/english/about/program/index.html) from the Canadian Government. This $100,000.00 award (renewable once a year for five years) will support Dr. Jegede’s research in web-based learning. While previously his research was focussed on children, he will now be looking at adult students as well. This seems like a significant step forward, as too often when you mention education to the average person, they think of the K-12 system. More awareness of adult students is probably the first step to our government realizing how important the post-secondary system really is.

April’s Fools

Congratulations also go to Alberta MLAs for receiving a pay raise (http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200203/12121.html) on April 1, 2002. The government release pins this raise at 3.3%. However, they neglect to mention that the third of that money listed as an “expense allowance” is tax-free, and make no mention at all of the RSP allowance that the MLAs are given. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation pins their actual salary (http://www.taxpayer.com/newsreleases/ab/March26-02.htm) at an amount almost $15,000.00 higher.

Interestingly, the RSP allowance was brought into effect with the reasoning that since Alberta MLAs receive no pension for their service on the legislature, they should be given something extra in order to provide for their retirement. Of course, the reason they receive no pension is because that was one of the election promises Premier Klein made back when he started. So is it breaking a promise when you say you’ll get rid of a pension plan, but then keep paying the money anyway? And this doesn’t even touch the severance package the Alberta MLAs have granted themselves. Were Mr. Klein to resign or be defeated in an election tomorrow, Albertans would have to pay over half a million dollars in severance pay.

I guess we know who the real April Fools are.

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