Students in British Columbia are saddled with the highest student loan interest rate in the country, on top of rising tuition and an average student debt load of $27,000. Students, graduates and instructors all agree that student debt is too high. The presidents of B.C. universities have added their voice on this issue, calling on the Liberal government to improve financial assistance for post-secondary students to bring the province in line with what is offered in other key jurisdictions across Canada.
The Minister of Advanced Education promised last June that her Ministry was conducting a review of potential changes for student financial assistance, with changes slated for this Fall. Unfortunately, the beginning of the school year has come and gone and we have yet to see the results from the review, much more any changes to StudentAid BC.
Last week in the Legislature, Mungall called for Minister Naomi Yamamoto to release the results of this review. Instead of tabling the findings and bringing forward much-needed improvements, the minister side-stepped the request. Follow this link to view the video transcript: http://bit.ly/SABCreview, or view the transcript below.
STUDENT FINANCIAL ASSISTANCEM. Mungall: B.C. has the highest student loan interest rate in the country, on top of an average student debt load of $27,000. In June the Minister for Advanced Education said in the Vancouver Sun: “The ministry has been working on a review of potential changes for student financial assistance.” Changes, she said, were slated for this fall. Now the beginning of the school year has come and gone, and students are yet again racking up debt. They want to know if this minister is actually working on the issue. Will the minister table today in this House that review? And if she cannot table it in this House, please explain to students what’s the holdup. Hon. N. Yamamoto: Well, since this is my first opportunity to address the member opposite in the House this session, I’d like to — in the spirit of Jack Layton, that “love is better than anger” — wish the member opposite all the best. I understand she was recently married. In that vein…. Interjections. Mr. Speaker: Continue, Minister. Hon. N. Yamamoto: But at every turn, I hear criticism — negative, destructive criticism — about our top-quality, world-class post-secondary education system in B.C., and it’s absolutely unfounded.  Students in B.C. have access to over $700 million of student grants, Canada student grants upfront, and upfront grants and student loans to ensure that we have good accountability and affordability for both our students and taxpayers. We invest annually over $1.9 billion in our post-secondary education system. With the financial support of B.C. taxpayers, our students pay only one-third of the actual cost of their education. Mr. Speaker: The member has a supplemental. M. Mungall: Thank you so much to the minister for acknowledging what was a very happy day this summer for me. But we need to get to the issue at hand here. That is what question period is all about, after all. Of course, students, graduates and instructors all agree that student debt is much too high in this province. It’s not just them; it’s the presidents of B.C. universities. They’ve called on this government to make a change. In their submission to this review, they said: “It is now time to improve B.C.’s StudentAid program so the province is in line with other key jurisdictions across the country.” The minister mentioned that students in B.C. have access to $700 million of grants from the federal government but not a dime for financial needs–based grants from this government — not a dime. To the minister: will she let these groups know that they are being heard and release this review? Or will she admit that this is just another example of this government shuffling papers and not getting the job done? Hon. N. Yamamoto: This is an interesting line of questioning, especially in light of two recent reports that came out this week. One of them, the Canadian University Report, shows that coming to B.C. for a post-secondary education is a great bargain. The other one, the Macleans university report, ranks several of our universities and colleges in Canada as being one of the best.