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With Premier Doug Ford’s cuts to the Ontario education budget earlier this year, funding for post-secondary education has been an ongoing issue for many students. According to Abacus Data, an Ottawa-based research firm, millennials now make up the largest voting bloc in the 2019 federal election. Having education policy that resonates well with students is crucial to the success of our political parties.
According to the Liberals’ 2019 platform, the party plans to make changes to the student loan system in Canada. The platform states that, “We will give full- and part-time students up to $1,200 more per year, through increased Canada Student Grants.” They also plan to give students two years after graduation to start a career before they need to begin paying off their student loans, interest-free. This grace period is something that Doug Ford axed in Ontario, causing a huge upset for students needing to repay loans. The Liberals, however, plan to make additional changes to the student loan program so that “graduates won’t have to start repaying their loans until they make at least $35,000, and if their income ever falls below this level, their payments will be put on hold.” Finally, new parents will be allowed to pause their student loan payments until their child turns five, allowing for time to adjust to life as a parent and to dedicate their income to family life.
Is $35,000 enough of an income to justify making that the starting point for repaying student loans?
Although the Conservative platform has now been released, there is no mention of education or students. From what I’ve managed to gather through other campaign promise trackers such as CBC, Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives have really only talked specifically about one aspect of the education system. The party promised an increase to the Registered Education Savings Plans, raising contributions from 20 to 30 per cent for every dollar invested up to $2,500 a year, to a maximum of $750 a year.
With other parties talking about lowering student loan fees and eliminating post-secondary tuition, the Conservatives should be more specific about how they are planning to help students who are unable to afford the cost of education in today’s economic climate. While the RESP boost is important, it is only one very small step in helping students afford schooling. Ford and the Ontario Progresive Conservatives have not been hugely popular in the Ontario education community. The federal Conservative party needs to be prepared to take on more than just the RESP to help students.
Question: Do you have an RESP?
Jagmeet Singh has stated clearly, more than once now, his plans for the future of post-secondary education in Canada: to eliminate tuition. The NDP plans to do this by working with provinces to put caps on tuition fees and reducing fees, eventually making post-secondary education part of a public education system. The party plans to move away from loans and focus on grants instead, leaving fewer students with the need to repay the government at the end of their schooling. Finally, the NDP plans to invest in First Nations schools located on reserves to bring them up to provincial standards, fulfilling “Shannen’s Dream” Parliamentary motion of 2012, a movement advocating for equitable educational funding for First Nations students. What the party doesn’t mention in its platform, however, is where the money for grants will come from. It seems like an excellent solution to the problem of affordable education for all, but does it seem realistic?
Do you think we will ever have free post-secondary tuition?
Similar to the NDP, the Green party wants to eliminate education tuition for all students. In their official platform they outline the steps that they will take to make this happen. With regards to eliminating tuition they state, “this would be financed by redirecting existing spending on bursaries, tuition tax credits, saved costs of administering the student loan system, and the hundreds of millions of dollars of student loan defaults written off every year. Tuition scholarships provided by colleges and universities can be redirected to offset other student costs.” Without the need for tuition, there is obviously no need for a scholarship. The party also focuses on how to get Indigenous students into the classrooms and proposes removing the two per cent cap on increases in education funding for Indigenous students to ensure they have better access to post-secondary education. Finally, they state plainly that they will “forgive the portion of existing student debt that is held by the federal government.” While forgiving the student debt sounds like a simple thing, it will likely be an expensive endeavour. The Greens need to be clear about their revenue and taxation expectations should they join government and pursue this promise.
Question: Do you think it is feasible for a government to just forgive all student debt without massive drawbacks to the economy?
Tomorrow we talk health care. Check back with us to read all about it.