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by Archives January 27, 2009

Congratulations are in order. Thanks to the federal government’s supreme efficiency in giving out loans, 500,000 students were given access to post-secondary education. You must all be proud of yourselves.
Canadian students now owe the federal government no less than $13 billion in loans. And that number is growing at the rate of $1.2 million per day. While it’s true that Quebec students fare slightly better than their counterparts in other provinces when it comes to debt, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be paying attention, or that we’re not in trouble.
According to the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), an average post-secondary student graduates with $25 to $28 thousand in debt, which takes about 10 years to pay off. Quebec students, who benefit from lower tuition fees, clock in at $13 thousand in debt.
With a recession right around the corner, more and more students are planning on prolonging their stay in university to delay their entry into the struggling workforce. This means more debt. As if there wasn’t enough already. It also means those who do not wish to stay in school and can’t find a job will be placing themselves in a difficult position where they will be unable to pay off an ever-growing amount of debt.
The solution, of course, is getting the government to act now. The first logical step to be taking is an immediate cut in rates, so the sheer amount does not grow at such an alarming speed. Next, the government’s new budget should dedicate a part of its finances towards cutting down the total amount owed. Another practical step is simply giving out more money in grants than in loans. That may seem like an expense the country can’t afford right now, but it’s better to deal with this now than with its snowball effect 10 years down the road.
Now comes the more controversial part of the suggestion. The government should be handing students this extra money through the Canada Social Transfer program, not through Canada Student Loans (which Quebec has already smartly opted out of). This would allow provincial governments to deal directly with universities, so that tuition fees can be better negotiated, and perhaps even lowered.
Finally, a considerable amount of money should be spent on opening up more post-secondary seats. The government is expected to allocate a huge chunk of its budget to new infrastructure, yet it hasn’t made any plans to form anyone so they can actually do the work.
It’s simple. If the government doesn’t help struggling students out now, then it’ll only end up putting in more money in the long-run.

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