As a student at Brandon University, I can agree with what most of the Brandon Sun editorial, “Student Debt” argues. I, like many other students getting a post-secondary education, have had to take on student debt.
I was “lucky” enough to not have parents who made too much money and thus qualified for provincial and government student loans. It is a little misleading to say that only those who don’t qualify for government assistance are crippled by interest costs, because the province of Manitoba charges interest on student loans once students no longer meet full-time status. For a student like myself, my job as the Brandon University Students’ Union President necessitates me becoming a part-time student. This part-time status means that I have to start paying back my student loans and accumulating interest while still in school.
The Canadian Federation of Students is correct in naming cuts to federal funding for post-secondary institutions as a cause in the shifting of university funding onto the backs of students. Our post-secondary institutions are moving from public institutions toward a private model of education. In a publication released this year by the province of Ontario, they have begun referring to their universities as “publically assisted” rather than public. This is a startling shift that makes me question the commitment by government to accessible, affordable post-secondary education.
This is a time when a post-secondary education is no longer a luxury, but is quickly becoming a necessity. If we hope to have a skilled workforce, we must make an investment in education. According to the Canadian Federation of Students, 70 per cent of all new jobs require a degree. If post-secondary education is not accessible for certain demographics, then the wealth distribution among Canadian citizens will become even more disparate.
Though it is true that university graduates earn more over their lifetime, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, male grads earn $80,000 more over their lifetime and females earn $46,000 more over lifetime. Over a 40-year working career, a woman would then earn less than $100 a month more than a woman without a degree.
Even with a full-time job, it is still difficult to live off of my salary and be a student. Besides it being difficult to afford the essentials, it is also challenging to be mentally healthy when there is little to no time to shut one’s brain off and relax.
There is a tremendous amount of pressure to do well, as the job market is both extremely competitive and unpredictable. It is the students who have to work to provide for themselves, who can then spend less time on academic work, who suffer most.
The amount of money allocated for national student loans surpassed its $15-billion debt ceiling this past year; the ceiling has since been raised. Interestingly, CFS reports that by 2013, the annual cost to the government for corporate tax cuts will be $13.7 billion.
When the money leant for student loans is less than the money spent on education tax credit and saving schemes, we need to take a critical look at the way the government prioritizes money to help students attend post-secondary institutions. When, according to CFS statistics, 83 per cent of Canadians are against increases in tuition fees, we need to look critically at the model of spending money to help educate Canadians. I would love for post-secondary education to be free for all who want to receive an education. Until then, there are cost-effective ways to ensure accessibility to create a better-educated society.
CARISSA TAYLOR, president Brandon University Students’ Union
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 26, 2012