This week’s Throne Speech foreshadowed another provincial budget that will continue to ignore students and their families who are struggling to access college and university with ever increasing fees and insufficient financial aid.
“BC students are graduating with an average of $35,000 in debt,” said Simka Marshall, Chairperson of the British Columbia Federation of Students, “yet the Throne Speech didn’t once mention any relief for post-secondary students and their families.”
BC provides the lowest amount of non-repayable financial aid of any province, and charges the highest rate of interest on student loans in the country. Students have been calling for the introduction of a needs-based student grant program and the elimination of interest charged on student loans to alleviate some student loan debt.
“Despite hundreds of millions of dollars in past budget surpluses, Christy Clark has cut funding for programs that help our most marginalized community members.”
In Budget 2015, the Christy Clark government eliminated funding for adult basic education (ABE) programming at post-secondary institutions across BC and removed the tuition fee-free mandate. As a result, public institutions are charging up to $1,600 per term in tuition fees for these programs. The implementation of fees has lowered enrolment in adult basic education at institutions across the province by 20 to 60%.
“The BC Liberal government is keeping low income adults out of upgrading classes and leaving families in poverty,” said Marshall. “Despite hundreds of millions of dollars in past budget surpluses, Christy Clark has cut funding for programs that help our most marginalized community members.”
“While the Throne Speech yet again ignored the needs of students, we are hopeful that this budget will help students stay in classrooms.”
The bipartisan government committee that engages in public consultation for the budget recommended some of the key asks from students be considered in the development of the 2017 Budget. These include:
- Establish a needs-based student grant program that addresses student needs and provides incentives for completion and conduct a review of the current B.C. student loan eligibility requirements and interest charged on B.C. student loans; and
- Reinstate tuition-free English as a Second Language (ESL), Adult Basic Education (ABE) and adult special education programs.
“Recommendations to address financial barriers have been made for the past several years,” said Marshall. “While the Throne Speech yet again ignored the needs of students, we are hopeful that this budget will help students stay in classrooms.”
The British Columbia Federation of Students is composed of post-secondary students from 14 universities and colleges in every region in BC. Post-secondary students in British Columbia have been represented by the British Columbia Federation of Students and its predecessor organizations since 1966.