As students across the province head to college and university campuses today, many of them will be thinking hard about their student loans. Without a student grant program in BC, debt is the only way half of all students and their families can afford to attend post-secondary education.

“BC has the lowest amount of non-repayable financial assistance – like grants – in Canada,” said Tanysha Klassen, Chairperson of the BC Federation of Students. “Skyrocketing tuition fees and no comprehensive grants program mean students and their families are forced deep into debt before even getting a start on life.”

While tuition fees have more than doubled since 2001, students’ options for financial assistance from the government have been reduced to not much more than student loans. Student loan debt in BC is nearly $4.5 billion, and the average student loan debt after a four-year degree is over $30,000. An up-front, need-based grants program would not only increase access to college and university education, it would also enhance completion rates amongst students with loan debt.

interest makes matters worse

Exacerbating the student loan debt issue is the interest charged on student loans. Although earlier this year the BC government eliminated interest charged on the provincial loan, the federal loan – the larger portion of the loan – accrues interest over the repayment period.

“For students who have to borrow money in order to access post-secondary education, interest charged by the government can add thousands of dollars to the cost of their education,” said Klassen. “This is extra money they have to pay for the same education as people who don’t need student loans. This system unfairly punishes those who can’t afford to pay education costs upfront.”

The federal government charges the highest rate of interest on student loans of any jurisdiction in Canada. While Budget 2019 promised to reduce the interest beginning the 2019-20 academic year, interest continues to penalize those who borrowed to access education. Five provinces in Canada have eliminated interest charged on the provincial portion student loans.

The BC Federation of Students is spearheading a campaign called Knock Out Interest, calling on the government to eliminate interest charged on federal students loans. The campaign is being run by students’ unions at institutions in every region of the province, as well as in Alberta and Saskatchewan. More information about the campaign can be found at knockoutinterest.ca.

The BC Federation of Students represents over 170,000 students at 14 universities and colleges in every region of BC. Together, these students advocate for a well-funded system of post-secondary education in BC that is affordable and accessible for all students.