Volume 93, Issue 85

Friday, March 10, 2000


Editorial Board 1999-2000

A curse or a blessing?

Editorial cartoon

A curse or a blessing?

As we all learned in public school, pulling out isn't always the best method.

Yesterday, the financial institutions of Canada and the federal government announced they were severing ties – at least where student loans are concerned. Canadian banks will no longer be responsible for dispensing and collecting student loans.

In theory, this could be a positive move for students. Taking such responsibilities out of the hands of big business and high finance may make the process a little easier on budding intellectuals. Banks will no longer have a unilateral grasp on interest rates and the rules concerning loan pay back. Of course, this theory loses all credibility when one realizes who Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin have chosen to handle student loans within the government – Minister Jane Stewart and Human Resources Development Canada.

Yes, the same Stewart & Co. who lost over a billion dollars in grant money. The same HRDC which has been roundly criticized by opposition parties, the press and even its own federal government. The same Ministry which is currently under investigation for fraud and mismanagement.

The responsibility for dolling out millions, if not billions, of dollars to starving, cash-strapped students has fallen into the most unreliable hands of all. How can a Ministry, unable to handle the responsibility of distributing federal grant money, be trusted to provide students with the monetary aid they require?

Realistically, the job should have been left in the hands of the banks. They may represent our financial overlords, but the relationship between students and banks was mutually beneficial. Students received their money from institutions whose job it was to handle money responsibly. In turn, the banks had the chance to make life long customers. Students seeking loans eventually became financially secure adults buying cars, houses and using the bank for retirement savings plans.

But despite all the doom and gloom which appears on our horizon, there may exist some silver lining to our financial nightmare. Consider for a second, the benefits of having an disorganized, mismanaged group handing out cash. Kind of like a senile grandparent with plenty of cash to throw around, it could quite possibly mean money will be distributed with reckless abandon.

Consider the case of the average student applying for a $7,000 loan. Given the practices of the wise old book keepers at the HRDC, this same student may find a $70,000 check on their doorstep. Don't think that could possibly happen? Go talk to the people in Chrétien's riding about how "giving" the HRDC can be.

Despite this fringe benefit, the large duty of dolling out student dollars should not be in the hands of such a chaotic organization. The banks and the feds need to go back to the bargaining table and consumate a relationship which will conceive a healthy, mutually beneficial agreement or somebody else at the federal lvel should be in charge.

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