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‘An education should help young people get ahead’

Richard Cannings is in his second elected term as MP for South Okanagan-West Kootenay

Last weekend, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh presented the NDP’s plan to help young people thrive instead of being buried in student loan debt.

The NDP plan includes eliminating interest on student loans, putting a moratorium on student loan payments, cancelling up to $20,000 per student of federal student loan debt and giving new graduates a five-year head-start without having to repay any federal student loan.

Why are these measures needed?

Over the past 30 years, both provincial and federal governments have dramatically reduced their contributions to post-secondary education across Canada. A few years ago, combined government contributions fell below 50 per cent of post-secondary revenue for the first time.

Over the same period, universities and colleges were forced to find revenue sources to replace the steadily falling government funding, and tuition fees soared to fill that gap.

Combine high tuition fees with increasing housing costs and you have a recipe for a very expensive education.

A post-secondary education — that is essential for over 80 per cent of jobs in today’s world—now costs about $20,000 per year. Students are forced to find low-paying part-time jobs and take out large student loans to make ends meet.

Those debts have been increasing for years, and now the average student debt on graduation is $28,000. That’s the average — some students enter the work force with more than $50,000 of debt.

At a time of life when young people used to be thinking of buying a home and starting a family, they are now faced with digging themselves out of a financial hole that seems almost insurmountable.

An education should help young people get ahead, not leave them further behind.

And the federal government can take immediate steps to fix that. Federal student loans charge interest, and over the past five years the federal government has taken in over $4 billion from students in interest payments — profiting off the backs of young people already feeling the squeeze.

The NDP will permanently remove interest on all federal student loans so the federal government stops profiting off the backs of young people.

Several provinces, including British Columbia, no longer charge interest on student loan debt, and it is time to take this step for federal loans.

We desperately need a new national strategy for post-secondary education in Canada.

If young people are required to have a post-secondary education to qualify for most jobs, whether that training is in university, college, or the trades, they should be able to access that education at minimal or no cost.

The NDP is committed to work with provinces and territories towards tuition-free post-secondary education and to re-instate the moratorium on student loan payments — cancelled in September by the Liberals — until the pandemic is over.

The government support necessary for post-secondary education is an essential investment in Canada’s future.

As the saying goes, if you think education is expensive, try ignorance.

Richard Cannings is MP for the South Okanagan-West Kootenay.

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