Volume 91, Issue 32

Friday, October 24, 1997

cliff hanger


Loan plan shot down by lobbyists

By Sandra Dimitrakopoulos
Gazette Staff

A joint effort by the Canadian Federation of Students and the Ministry of Education in British Columbia may prove there is a better answer to student debt than loan repayment programs currently being proposed.

In a news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday, the CFS and the BC Ministry of Education attempted to highlight problems in the income- contingency loan repayment plan being considered by the federal government.

The program essentially bases repayment of a student loan on the level of income generated by a graduate from a post-secondary institution, said national chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students Brad Lavinge. Ontario is the only province that wants to adopt the ICLRP program at present, Lavinge said.

CFS has been involved in researching and trying to combat the problems behind this proposed program since 1985, which includes forcing graduates in lower-paying jobs to pay more for their education than those in higher- paying positions, but also shifts the focus of repayment to a user-pay system, Lavinge said.

This type of policy harms women and minorities the most since it is those groups who usually end up in lower-paying jobs than their white, male counterparts, he said, adding when people are paid less it takes them longer to pay off loans with overwhelming interest rates.

The news conference is only part of an effort by CFS to shore up opposition from provinces, banks, the government and the public.

Paul Ramsey, the Minister of Education for Skills and Training in British Columbia, said he believes there is a political window of opportunity to show the government it needs to look at reducing debt rather than restructuring it.

The average debt of current graduates is $17,000 which is double what it was four years ago and student bankruptcies have risen from 3,000 in 1990 to 8,000 within the last year, Ramsey said.

As a result, many students are also either dropping out of school or just deciding not to go, he said. "We need students to go and complete their education for their own personal success and for the country's success."

Ryan Parks, Ontario regional director for the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, said although he does not know the specifics of the aims put forth by CFS, the intentions of CASA in this area are similar.

"Any time a student organization can work with the government, it's a good thing and we also hope to work closely with the federal government."

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Copyright The Gazette 1997