Tackle student debt crisis first: Savoie to Solberg

Tackle student debt crisis first: Savoie to Solberg

NDP says affordability, accessibility and quality of post-secondary education must take priority for new Human Resources Minister

OTTAWA – Students struggling to pay for soaring tuition and crippling debt must be the first priority in post-secondary education for new Human Resources Minister Monte Solberg. NDP Post-Secondary Education Advocate Denise Savoie (Victoria), said today that NDP solutions would go a long way in fixing the problems facing average students.

“Canada’s growing prosperity gap is rooted in increasingly unequal access to post-secondary education,” said Savoie. “While wealthier Canadian families receive the lion’s share of tax cuts and credits, tuition has become unaffordable for low and middle-income families and graduates are smothered under their student debt as they begin their careers.”

“A one-time drop in the bucket or a tax transfer won’t solve chronic federal under funding or unequal access across provinces.” Savoie outlined a plan to tackle the student debt crisis: first, a substantial increase in federal transfers so that provinces can freeze or roll back tuition and re-invest in faculty and resources.

Second, Savoie called for a comprehensive federal student grant system, coordinated with the provinces, to replace the current patchwork of federal grants cobbled together by successive Liberal and Conservative governments.

“Today’s students have enough on their minds without facing a convoluted mess of student assistance,” said Savoie. “Student debt continues to soar, and countless low- and middle-income Canadians are left behind by the system. Let’s make student aid simpler and more effective.”

An immediate priority must be to guarantee that the funding for the expiring Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation (CMSF) is seamlessly rolled into the comprehensive student grant system.

“We have a short timeframe before the end of the CMSF mandate in 2009,” said Savoie. “This government’s first priority must be to plan ahead and ensure that those dollars remain in the student aid system as non-repayable, needs-based grants. Education must be affordable for today’s students.”

Savoie presented a three-point plan to address the expiry of the CMSF in 2009, including incorporating lessons learned from the foundation’s work into the new grant system, and coordinating with provinces to ensure that all students’ needs are met and provincial grant programs are not clawed back.

The plan complements the NDP’s strategy to double the amount of federal student grants by cancelling two federal programs that disproportionately benefit wealthier families, in order to reduce average student debt in Canada by at least 25%.