Canadian Fedwatch! News Across the Nation

Ontario on the Right Track

The Provincial government of Ontario has announced (http://ogov.newswire.ca/ontario/GPOE/2004/07/20/c4322.html?lmatch=&lang=_e.html) a number of changes to the student financial assistance programs in the province. At an estimated cost of 20.9 million, the Ontario government is taking some steps to make post-secondary actually accessible.

One of the changes put through is that the amount of expected parental contribution will be significantly dropped, thus allowing more students to get student financing, even if their parents haven’t had disposable income to be putting away for them. This will be a significant boon to those families where, despite their best efforts, there was always a little more month left at the end of the money.

Another interesting change is that students who have exhausted interest relief and are still having a hard time making their loan payments, may be eligible for further assistance from the Ontario government in making reductions to the principal of their loan. This means that those students who perhaps took a risk at trying to go to post-secondary and for whatever reason weren’t able to graduate or simply found themselves in a field where demand had collapsed, may still have the opportunity to get out from under the debt. While not as good as not incurring so much debt in the first place, at least this program gives hope to those who are looking at post-secondary and wondering about the risks of student loans.

The other changes are both in helping newcomers to Ontario be able to access the student finance system sooner and so get a start on their career training right away.

All in all, it boils down to a province that seems to have recognized that in an information based economy, the key to success is to ensure your citizens have the education to be able to use the information.

AU not part of Alberta Degree Council

The Ministry of Learning in Alberta recently announced (http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200407/16852ADDD6F7C-F0B4-4140-A9051A381EC4A850.html) the formation of their Campus Alberta Quality Council. This Council is responsible for reviewing new degree programs that Alberta institutions may want to establish and to ensure that quality control is maintained.

Notable is that of the 11 people on the Council, not one of them has a relation to Athabasca University. Also of interest is that while positions on the Council include two for Calgary and Edmonton, and one for each of Urban, South, and Central Alberta, there is effectively nothing covering Northern Alberta at all. The closest AU might get to an advocate on the Council is one of the two Out-of-province positions on the Council might be sympathetic to AU’s attempts to expand.

Considering that AU is planning on a number of expansions in degree granting, especially at the Master’s Level, we as students should probably be concerned about this. Will the Council be fair to the merits of each program presented to them, or will they be partisan to the benefits of their own particular universities or cities? Without a representative there from an AU board, we can only hope that the former applies.

If it doesn’t, AU’s plans for growth could be in jeopardy, which in turn means that our university would likely turn to where it always does when it needs more money:. to those of us paying tuition. So keep your fingers crossed with me.

Interested in Interest?

The Bank of Canada released an update (http://www.bankofcanada.ca/en/press/2004/pr04-15.htm) to its monetary policy report last week. This update basically says that the time of super-low interest rates may be coming to an end soon. It predicts that Canada will reach our production capacity peak in mid 2005 and that in order to ensure inflation doesn’t start at that point, they’ll have to discourage people from spending. The traditional way to do that is to raise the interest rates.

This becomes important for those on student loans or with mortgages coming up for renewal, as it may be time to consider locking the rate in for a while. Of course, how much the interest is going to go up is something they can’t tell us, as it depends a lot on what the international markets do and how much they buy from us.

For myself, I’ve always been lucky that my borrowing has been done at fairly low rates, but I’ve of course heard the stories from my parents about interest rates in the double-digits and people having to basically ditch their homes just to get out from under the interest payments. We can hope that our governments have a better handle on that kind of thing these days but I think it’s only human to be a little worried.

Hey, maybe if we all slow down our spending now, we can make sure the rates stay low so that we can all still afford those things that really matter.

A native Calgarian, Karl is perpetually nearing the completion of his Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Information Studies. He also works for the Computer Sciences Virtual Helpdesk for Athabasca University and plans to eventually go on to tutor and obtain his Master’s Degree.

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