The Daily Courier, Kelowna
Re: The Crippling Cost of Student Debt - Jan. 24, 2014
The critic for advanced education and I have both been out meeting with students. However, that's where the similarity ends. While he trolls for stories to use as a political football, anyone who has walked around a post-secondary institution knows the incredible energy, passion and exciting future they hold for students.
We have a nimble and flexible post-secondary education system that is successfully training and educating hundreds of thousands of students. Since 2001, more than 32,000 student seats and seven new public universities have been added to the public post-secondary system.
The critic's attitude towards international students seems out-of-sync with his caucus colleagues who have publicly recognized the economic, social and cultural value of these students. Either that or he just hasn't met enough to realize that out of the more than 440,000 post-secondary students in B.C., around 7.5 per cent are international students. A number we've committed to increase.
Youth employment is a priority and we think the best way to do that is to focus on our province's long-term economic prosperity. With more than one million job openings by 2020 we are confident that a growing economy will deliver good paying jobs for our young people. While more needs to be done, at 14.1 per cent, the youth unemployment rate remains considerably lower than the 25 year high of 20.1 per cent in June 1998.
To claim the Province makes money on student loans is wrong. The critic's magical math ignores the costs government incurs to borrow the money during the interest-free study period, expenditures on the repayment assistance program and other debtor assistance programs, administration fees, etc. Student loans are not a profit centre.
Only one third of B.C. students use government financial assistance. For those who do borrow, taxpayers offer government loans interest-free to students while in full-time studies. More than $3.2-billion has been invested in student financial assistance since 2001 to make education more accessible. Last year, B.C. provided $37 million through the BC Loan Reduction Program benefiting almost 24,000 students.
I believe in our youth and government has a plan to support them.
Advanced Education Minister