Volume 96, Issue 12
Wednesday September 18, 2002

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Student debt? No problem.
New study says loan repayments consistent

By Paolo Zinatelli
Gazette Staff

Forget about the image of the debt-laden student struggling to pay back student loans – a new study says it's not that bad.

According to a study by Saul Schwartz, a professor in the school of public policy at Carleton University, approximately 40 to 50 per cent of students do not need financial assistance.

Schwartz said his research found approximately 12 per cent of graduates missed payment on their student loans and the majority had no student loans, adding 25 per cent paid off their loans within two years of graduation. The remainder took the full 10-year time limit, making regular payments, he said.

The percentage of graduates who defaulted was actually quite small, Schwartz said. "Five per cent – not 95 per cent – have real trouble," he said.

Liam Arbuckle, national director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (a federal educational lobbying group), said it was difficult to comment on the study because he claimed the statistics professor Schwartz used were from either 1994 or 1995.

"[The study] paints a picture using old data," Arbuckle said, adding in the last 10 years, there has been a 135 per cent increase in tuition.

At Western, in 2001/2002, 8,629 students were processed through the Ontario Students' Assistance Program, said Lisa Latif, team leader with Western's student financial services in the Office of the Registrar.

As of September, 2002, Western's OSAP default rate was 6.9 per cent, Latif said, noting the average loan for a Western student was $7,168 last year.

In 2000/2001, there were 154,089 recipients of Canada Student Loans, Canada Study Grants and Ontario Student Loans, said Linda Nicholson of media relations with the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. OSAP encompasses all three forms of financial assistance, she added.

In 2001, $445.4 million in loans and bursaries were given, along with $60 million in grants, Nicholson confirmed. The default rate in Ontario on student loans is now 15.4 per cent, she said, adding this is the fourth straight year the percentage has gone down.

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2002 THE GAZETTE