BC students no longer have to pay interest on student loans
Annalisse Crosswell, Associate News Editor
The announcement of the annual provincial budget on Feb.19 was cause for celebration amongst post-secondary students and graduates, with the elimination of interest charges on student loans. Effective immediately following the BC government’s announcement, student loans will no longer incur interest charges at a provincial level. While the change will not make post-secondary education attainable to all – as many would like to see in the future – it will put more money back in the pockets of students not fortunate enough to be able to pay for their education up front.
“Since 2013 this has been one of our most comprehensive and regular asks,” said Noah Berson, the Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) vice-president external. “This is something we’ve worked fairly hard on, because, for us, it comes down to a fairness issue.” Berson believes it’s unfair that the province should be making money off of students who are incurring debt to gain an education.
This is something that the Alliance of British Columbia Students (ABCS) have lobbied for in the past. At this year’s lobby days event however, the ABCS chose to not address the issue as it was already a key component of the BC NDP’s election platform.
The announcement of student loan relief came under fire from BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, who thinks that interest on student loans provides a seemingly irreplaceable incentive for students to pay off their debts. Berson responded in an article published by Global News, calling Wilkinson’s comment “insulting”.
“Students are folks who are capable of forethought. We’re going to get our education, we’re investing in our future. This isn’t the kind of thing we take upon lightly,” Berson was quoted saying in defence of both students and a policy that he has worked closely on.
On the day of the announcement, Berson was in Victoria acting as chairperson of the ABCS along with other members of the CSU. In a first for both the ABCS and Capilano University, Berson and other representatives were invited to attend a meeting prior to the budget announcement with the Minister of Finances, Carole James, and the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, Melanie Mark.
The day also included the budget lockup, where BC lobbyists and media personnel are able to view the budget four hours in advance of the announcement. Cellphones are taken away and wifi is not available, but media are allowed to prepare press releases so as to be prepared when the budget is officially announced. Berson and Patrick Meehan, Director of Policy and Campaigns, attended the lockup.
The other five delegates sent to Victoria on behalf of the ABCS included CSU President and Vice-President Equity & Sustainability Anna-Elaine Rempel, Sunshine Coast Campus Representative Matthew Mclean, Business and Professional Studies Faculty Representative Joey Sidhu, and Arts & Sciences Faculty Representative Alea Replinski.
This change not only makes post-secondary education fairer, but also makes expenses and debts predictable for students. Berson thinks that this will in turn have impacts on students continuing their education without taking breaks, as they will no longer have to fear accumulated interest. Students will also be able to invest sooner in their future without the same looming debt.
The provincial government estimates that the elimination of interest on student loans will translate into savings of $2,300 over 10 years for BC students. “Not only [will this set] a standard for other provinces,” said Berson, “we’re hoping this is going to show [the] federal government that we shouldn’t be making money off those that can’t afford education.”