Volume 96, Issue 71
Wednesday, February 5, 2003

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Private bill proposes student loan change

By Anton Vidgen
Gazette Staff

A private member's motion to be tabled at an upcoming session of Parliament would have parental contributions eliminated from the assessment process of the Canada Student Loan Program.

Currently, the expected parental contribution – which is calculated based on a parent's annual income – is deducted from the amount a student is eligible to receive when applying for a student loan.

But problems exist in both the method for calculating the contribution and the whole concept behind the legislation, said John Herron, a Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament who authored the motion.

"I think that there's a very clear consensus among groups, parents in particular, and students [that] parental contribution in the Canada Student Loan Program just isn't working," Herron said.

By legislating financial barriers to getting a student loan, Canada's role in the global knowledge economy is severely weakened, Herron said. "We've actually put our country's competitiveness at risk by not investing in post-secondary education."

Herron said he is advocating a more comprehensive analysis of the calculations system and the incorporation of a student appeals mechanism. Failing that, complete elimination of the legislation would be in order, he added.

Erin Stevenson, communications officer for the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, said she will support the motion, while acknowledging that CASA policy advocates a review of the parental contributions process, not a total elimination.

Stevenson also expressed concern over the scheduled date the motion is to be presented in the House of Commons. "February 25 is the big budget day," Stevenson said, referring to the federal government's anticipated release of the budget.

"We're hoping that [the motion] will be pushed back," she said, adding it would receive more media attention if presented at a later date.

Herron said a later date would also give House leaders more time to finalize proposed legislation that would make it easier for a private member's motions to reach a vote in parliament. Having MPs vote on the motion would lend more credibility and immediacy to the issue, Herron said.

Nevertheless, CASA is organizing a Canada-wide letter-writing campaign to MPs, asking them to support Herron's motion, Stevenson said.

University Students' Council VP-education Josh Morgan said he supports both CASA's and Herron's efforts toward making a post-secondary education more accessible. "Currently, the restrictions on parental contributions are extremely tight," Morgan said.

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2002 THE GAZETTE