VICTORIA (CUP) ? British Columbia’s provincial NDP released their plan to make education more affordable on January 24, but the governing Liberals aren’t keen to listen.
With the average BC student debt upon graduation of a four-year program at $27,000, NDP Advanced Education critic Rob Fleming hopes to help students lower their debt upon graduation.
?We would institute programs that actually help people lower their debt, repay their debt in the time of basis, and move on with their life,? Fleming said.
The five-point plan outlines the restoration of need-based student grants; the expansion of graduate student scholarships; the reduction of student loan rates by 50 per cent; make student aid more student-friendly; and establish a student aid ombudsperson.
Fleming believes that student loans should not earn the government money, but should help students achieve their academic goals while being able to pay them back in a reasonable amount of time at a reasonable interest rate.
Fleming pointed to the decision in the U.S. Congress to cut student loan interest rates in half to 3.37 per cent, and to Nova Scotia which recently lowered student loan interest rates by two per cent.
Student loans in B.C. come with an interest rate of prime (usually around six percent) plus 2.5 per cent.
?There are even private credit products that are better than the B.C. student loans,? said Fleming.
The current provincial government, however, has a different take on the financial situation that students face, and they also have a different way of dealing with it.
?Last year, the province paid $38 million in interest on behalf of students, while recovering only $26 million in interest payments,? said Minister of Advanced Education Murray Coell.
?The NDP is not seeing the big picture,? continued Coell, ?that the post-secondary system has undergone significant change under this government and there are more opportunities for students than ever before in history.?
With more opportunities come more students in need of loans. Loans which the government may decide to forgive, he noted.
?Last year the province forgave and reduced $77 million in loans for 24,000 students,? Coell said.
Matthew de Groot, external executive at the Camosun College Student Society (CCSS), said that the NDP’s five-point plan is a good first step in addressing the state of the financial aid system and high tuition costs.
?We would encourage the Liberal government to look into these ideas,? says de Groot. ?We will hear what anybody wants to say about tuition.?