Education News – Students consulted on future of Canada Student Loans Program

Students consulted on future of Canada Student Loans Program

OTTAWA (CUP) — Human Resources Minister Monte Solberg has launched an online consultation to hear from students in the ongoing review of the Canada Student Loans Program (CSLP).

The online survey went live on Sept. 7 and is asking interested Canadians to offer their advice about ?how to best modernize, simplify and administer? the CSLP. The consultation lasts until Sept. 28.

Julian Benedict, a spokesperson for the Coalition for Student Loan Fairness (CSLF), welcomed the move, though he still had concerns about the review.

?It’s certainly better late than never. We are disappointed that it took this long for the government to realize that the almost one million student-loan borrowers deserve a say in the system they are paying for,? he said. ?Borrowers pay sky-high levels of interest for a system that is antiquated and unresponsive. we’re pleased that they’ve finally opened the review up.?

Benedict was cautiously optimistic about the outcome of the review, given that students now have a chance to air their grievances.

Zach Churchill, the national director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, said that despite the consultation, the CSLP review is still inadequate.

?The review is still too narrow in scope and doesn’t address the real issue with student-loans programs or student financial aid in Canada,? he said. ?People’s stories and input will only go so far with this review, the way It’s set up.?

Benedict said that the federal Liberals have been relatively quiet on the issue and the Bloc Qu├ębecois don’t actively work on federal post-secondary issues. But, he said, the NDP has supported much of the work of the CSLF.

Denise Savoie, the NDP post-secondary critic, welcomed the public consultation.

?I would have liked for that process to begin right from the start of the review instead of this last-minute three-week window, but nonetheless I think It’s important that [the government is] listening and all I can say is that I hope they incorporate what they hear,? she said.

Benedict said that while the CSLP review’s mandate only looks at ?administrative tinkering?, much more is necessary to fix problems plaguing the system. Savoie agreed.

?All former governments have done is tinker around the edges of the system. So I think It’s high time to have a substantive fix to the student aid program,? she said.

Lesley Harmer, Solberg’s director of communications, wrote in an e-mail that the government has actively consulted stakeholders throughout the process.

?Consultations have been underway for a few months,? she said. ?The online consultation is just one more component. The best way to gather information is to have discussions with the people directly involved and that is what we are doing.?

The CSLF published a report last July that outlined a number of perceived problems with the CSLP, including high interest rates, the lack of a national student-loans ombudsperson and inadequate hardship-relief programs to help those who default on their loans.

The online consultation is available on the HRSDC website at: http://www.hrsdc.gc.ca/en/learning/canada_student_loan/form_en.shtml

According to a spokesperson with the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, the completed review of the Canada Student Loans Program is scheduled to be released with the 2008 federal budget.

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