Mungall Slams Yamamoto for Failing to Listen to Students

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VICTORIA— Comments made by Liberal Advanced Education Minister Naomi Yamamoto show she is out of touch with the difficulties facing most B.C. students says New Democrat advanced education critic Michelle Mungall.

“By allowing tuition fees to skyrocket at the same time as they eliminated student grants, the Liberals forced students to take on increasingly large debt loads,” said Mungall. “Yet the minister continues to tell students how lucky they are to be burdened with some of the highest debt loads in Canada.”

The Liberal minister was recently criticized by the Selkirk College Students’ Union for failing to listen to students’ concerns about how unaffordable post-secondary education has become.

According to the student union press release, when confronted with cases of students living in cars or in tents because they were unable to afford proper housing after paying for tuition fees and books, the Liberal minister responded by talking about about the benefits of student debt.

This isn’t the first time the Liberal minister has sung the praises of student debt. Earlier in the summer she said “student debt is a really good debt to assume.” (July 8, 2011 Kelowna Buzz)

She was slammed for her comments by the UBC Okanagan student society, who confirmed that the minister told them “we’re actually lucky that we’re attending university with the debt levels we’re at right now.” (Kirk Chavarie, executive chairperson for the UBC Students Union Okanagan, CKFR, July 15)

“At prime plus 2.5 per cent, the interest rates on B.C. student loans mean that economically disadvantaged students actually pay more for their education than those who can afford it,” said Mungall. “It’s insulting for Minister Yamamoto to suggest that the families who can least afford the Liberals’ massive tuition fee increases should feel lucky that they pay the highest provincial student loan interest rates in the country.”

During the Liberals’ decade of underfunding, tuition fees more than doubled and student debt skyrocketed; it now averages $27,000 for a four-year program.

“I’d like to challenge Minister Yamamoto to explain why she thinks student debt is really good as more and more young people leave university to find nothing but low wage jobs waiting for them,” said Mungall. “The Liberals’ are charging more and more for post-secondary while failing to create quality jobs for students to fill after they graduate. It’s not a surprise that B.C. is now losing more people than are coming into the province. The opportunities are simply not here despite big Liberal promises.”

Adrian Dix and B.C.’s New Democrats believe that investments are needed to make post-secondary education more affordable and accessible in order for our economy to flourish and for British Columbians to have access to good jobs.