VICTORIA—Tuesday’s Speech from the Throne gave a notable nod to student financial assistance, making students across the province hopeful that interest on student loans will be eliminated in Budget 2019. The Speech alluded to Budget 2019 making life a little more affordable for students in BC, referencing a previous reduction in interest charged on student loans.

“Post-secondary education in BC continues to get more and more expensive, and interest charged on student loans leaves many people further behind as they begin their careers,” said Aran Armutlu, Chairperson of the BC Federation of Students (BCFS). “Students today are paying record high costs associated with attending post-secondary and the government has an opportunity to make life more affordable.”

Student loan debt has increased by 88% since the 1990s, with the average loan upon graduation of a 4-year degree at over $30,000. Interest charged on a student loan of $25,000 adds to an additional $7,400 during a 10-year repayment. Those with $40,000 of debt upon graduation could expect to pay an additional $11,900 in interest.

Amongst other items in her Mandate Letter from the Premier, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training Melanie Mark is tasked with eliminating interest on student loans.

Though interest on student loans is a major aspect to the affordability of education, there are several ways that the government can make key investments to improve the accessibility, quality, and affordability. Through the BCFS, students have advocated for investments into open education resources to reduce textbook costs; the creation of an upfront needs based grants program to help students access the classroom; and increases to base funding for colleges and universities to keep up with growth and the progressive reduction in tuition fees.

“Eliminating interest on student loans would not only help current and future students, but also those who have finished their studies and are struggling to make payments,” said Armutlu. “Students are hopeful the government will take steps, like eliminating interest on student loans, that will help thousands of current and future students.”

The British Columbia Federation of Students represents over 130,000 college and university students from across all regions of the province. The Federation represents full- and part-time students at the college, undergraduate, and graduate levels. Together these students advocate for a well-funded system of post-secondary education in BC that is affordable and accessible for all.