February 6, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 71  

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Student groups want more from Martin

By Sarvenaz Kermanshahi
Gazette Staff

Prime Minister Paul Martin’s throne speech Monday received mainly positive feedback from student lobby groups who say they are encouraged by the promises made, but anxious to see them implemented.

“We acknowledge that the government is addressing the right themes, namely access to post-secondary education for students of low-income families, but they need to do much more,” said Michael Marin, a spokesperson for the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations. “We haven’t seen a budget yet or specifically how the programs will be implemented, but it is a positive first step.”

In reference to loan eligibility, Marin said the government is adjusting the parental contribution requirement. “This will help students who are falling through the cracks because the government expects their parents to pay unrealistic fees,” he said.

Marin said a grant proposed in the speech for students in their first year needed to be expanded. “Statistics show that approximately one third of students who drop out after first year do so because of financial reasons,” he said, adding the government needs to extend its assistance to students in upper years.

Marin said he was concerned about the speech’s mention of the Canadian Education Savings Grant program, which matches funds parents put towards their child’s future education. “The problem with the program is that it is being used by families who don’t need the top-off.”

Also mentioned in the speech was an increase to loan limits, but according to Adam Spence, executive director of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, this would only increase debts. “We would like that money to go towards non-repayable assistance and grants,” he said.

“While we are happy to see reforms to the Canadian Loans program, we are hesitant to celebrate because the issue of access cannot be addressed unless the federal government starts providing more funding,” said Dave Ford, VP-education for the University Students’ Council.

Ford’s sentiments were echoed by Joel Duff, Ontario chairperson for the Canadian Federation of Students. “Martin has tinkered around the edges of the student loan program in the throne speech — we need concrete financial commitment that will make a difference.”



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