Jack Harris asks federal government to make post-secondary a priority
ST. JOHN’S, N.L. (CUP) ? A Newfoundland politician is calling on the federal government to follow his province’s lead and remove the interest on student loans nationally.
Jack Harris, the NDP MP for St. John’s East, announced that he will be putting forth a private member’s resolution proposing that the federal government follow the precedent set by Newfoundland and Labrador’s Department of Education.
The interest rate on Newfoundland and Labrador student loans, both past and present, has been eliminated as of August 1.
?They can’t say it can’t be done because It’s been done,? Harris said. ?It’s been done here in Newfoundland and Labrador.?
In a presentation to students and the media last week, Harris said he estimates the move would cost government about $130 million a year per percentage of interest.
?In the grand scheme of things, with the budget of the government of Canada, this is not a huge amount of money.?
Harris says the legislation, if passed, would be a step in the right direction, but not a solution to Canada’s post-secondary funding problems. ?I would call it one small step,? Harris said. ?It’s something concrete the federal government can do very easily.
Canada also needs to develop a national post-secondary education strategy and dedicate transfer payments for post-secondary, he said. The Canadian Federation of Students estimates the national student debt to be $13 billion, with $500 million belonging to students from Newfoundland and Labrador.
Harris hears of working graduates whose loans are preventing them from making major life decisions like having children, getting married, or buying a home.
Loan debts, said Harris, ?are very real barriers to people setting themselves up in life. A lot of public policy makers don’t really realize that.?
Harris is looking across the country for support. He wants to stimulate a national debate about who should bear the costs of post-secondary education. He said the federal government has a much larger role to play.
?Post-secondary education should and must be a greater national priority than it is. It cannot be left to the provinces.?