Chong out to lunch on budget

I would like to set the record straight.

In a Feb. 23 letter (Minister Says Funds Available for Student Aid), Minister Ida Chong condemned the NDP for spreading fear about the government making cuts to student aid programs in the 2011/2012 budget; calling these claims “not true.”

While the NDP may have reported a larger cut than there is in this budget when it first came out, Minister Chong seems to be trying to spin the situation as if there was no cut at all.

If the minister had bothered to look at the budget that her party passed, she would see in black and white that the budget for student aid programs in B.C. went from close to $85 million in last year’s budget to just over $74 million in this year’s.

Anyone familiar with primary school arithmetic can easily see that this represents a budget cut of over $10 million.

Chong claiming that there have been no cuts suggests that she either doesn’t know what a budget is and how it works or she is lying.

A quick look at the track record of the B.C. Liberals on student aid programs in B.C. shows some very disturbing trends.  Since 2008, the budget for student aid programs in B.C. has been cut by 36 per cent and B.C. has the highest interest rates on student loans in the country.

To make matters worse, in 2003, the B.C. Liberals eliminated the B.C. Student Grant program giving our province the dubious distinction of having the worst system of non-repayable student support in the country.

Students and their families should be afraid of these cuts as they worry about how they will be able to afford a post-secondary education in a province where tuition fees continue to go up every year.

Minister Chong is right about one thing in her letter, “post-secondary education is a key driver for the economic future of this province.”  Now, it’s time for the B.C. Liberals to put our money where their mouths are and properly fund post-secondary education rather than just paying it lip service.

Dave Lubbers

Selkirk College Students Union