With the 2020 BC Budget just around the corner, students and their families are renewing their calls for the government to implement an up-front needs-based grant program to ease the burden of student loan debt.

“BC has the lowest amount of non-repayable financial assistance – like grants – in Canada,” said Tanysha Klassen, Chairperson of the BC Federation of Students (BCFS). “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, financial assistance options for students and their families have been reduced to little more than student loans. Half of all BC graduates have debt; the average student loan debt after a bachelor degree is nearly $35,000. An up-front grants program would help people from low- and middle-income families access post-secondary education by reducing the amount of debt they are forced to take on.

Recent public opinion polling demonstrates that 68% of British Columbians support the creation of an up-front needs-based grant program.

Studies have shown that students with large amounts of student loans are more likely to drop out before completing their education. Up-front grants relieve financial pressures that students face while in school and increase their likelihood of completing their studies.

“Rural students and their families are often forced to seek work in urban centers like the Lower Mainland in order to make their high student loan payments while trying to make a living,” said Klassen. “A grant program would help to keep these students studying – and living – in their communities by reducing their student loan debt.”

Students in BC have advocated for the introduction of a comprehensive student grant program for more than a decade. In its current campaign Grants Not Loans the BCFS lays out a fiscally responsible plan to create a student grant program by reallocating existing smaller measures, including back-end completion grants and education related tax credits, which will help BC students who need it the most. More information about the Grants Not Loans campaign can be found here.