Following province-wide consultations, the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services reported that post-secondary education was the second-most discussed topic throughout the verbal, written, audio, and video submissions. The Committee’s report, published Wednesday, reflects the weight of this input through recommendations like the complete elimination of interest on student loans, and creation of needs-based grants.
“The future of our economy relies on education, and we need that education to be accessible to all,” said Simka Marshall, Chairperson of the BC Federation of Students. “These measures will help tens of thousands of British Columbians who otherwise could not access the education they need to support their families and build a bright future.”
With no comprehensive student grant program, BC has amongst the lowest non-repayable student aid in the country. Until the summer of this year, BC charged the highest rates of interest on student loans in Canada; in August interest rates were reduced to prime.
Among the Report’s other recommendations is a call to invest in BCcampus, a government agency that, amongst other things, produces open education resources. The Committee heard from students across the province requesting a one-time $5 million investment in BCcampus to fund the creation of hundreds of new free and low-cost textbooks and instructional resources. Research has shown that the cost of textbooks skyrocketed by 82% between 2002 and 2012, becoming an unpredictable out-of-pocket expense for students in addition to tuition fees.
“We are pleased with the recommendations put forward by the Committee, but were disappointed that students’ call for regulation of international student tuition fees was absent from the Report,” said Marshall. “International students contribute hundreds of millions to BC’s economy and deserve to be treated fairly; that means a reasonable cap on annual international tuition fee increases to prevent unpredictable and predatory annual fee increases.”
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