Education News – NDP Calls For Student Loans Ombudsperson

In an August 20 news release, the NDP has stated something that student-loan recipients have known for a long time: the system is broken and desperately needs to be fixed.

Specifically, Denise Savoie, the NDP Postsecondary Education Advocate, is calling for ?an advocate to deal with the flawed and rigid student loan system.?

This release supports efforts that have been underway for some time by the Coalition for Student Loan Fairness (CSLF), a collective of student loan borrowers and their supporters from across Canada. As part of an eight-point plan to reform the ?unresponsive and antiquated student loan system,? the CSLF is also advocating the creation of a student loan ombudsperson office.

As Savoie says, the problem is that ?Instead of helping students find ways to repay their loans and begin contributing to society, this error-prone system throws borrowers into a spin cycle with no way out. And instead of providing a reasonable mechanism to resolve students? problems, this Conservative government is contracting out to private collection pit bulls whose only incentive is profit.?

While the United States has had an ombudsman for Federal Student Aid since 1998, Canada lags far behind in establishing an effective student loan system–a reality That’s backed up by the National Student Loan Service Centre’s (NSLSC) own data. A 2007 client satisfaction survey they conducted revealed that a mere one-third of students who encountered problems with the system were satisfied with the way their problems were handled; not a great track record by any account.

The NDP first requested the creation of a student loan ombudsperson in May, in part as a result of an Auditor General’s report. It revealed that not only has Canada Student Loans been rated poorly for their ability to resolve problems to the satisfaction of all parties, but that the federal government is not ensuring that the private collection agencies it hires are following proper collection guidelines.

The NDP’s request–as well as the efforts of student organizations such as CSLF–is supported by an overwhelming majority of Canadians. The results of a national Decima poll commissioned by CSLF show that support for the creation of a federal student loans ombudsperson is as high as 86% in Atlantic Canada, 76% in Ontario, and 74% in B.C.

Savoie is also requesting that a current review of Canada’s student loan system ?be opened to wider public input, and expanded to address the multiple flaws that leave so many students behind.?

If the NDP’s request becomes reality, it will come as welcome relief to thousands of students at the mercy of a system that, as Savoie says, is ?too inflexible to rectify its own errors and penalizes students unfairly.?

For more information on this issue, contact Ed Gillis, Office of Denise Savoie, at (613) 947-4424. You can also find resources about student loan issues at the CSLF website at http://www.studentloanfairness.ca/index.php

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