Today Premier Christy Clark released the Families First Agenda for British Columbia and highlighted the Family Affordability Pillar, which includes changes to better support people having difficulty repaying their student loans.
"The Families First Agenda is our government's plan to better support vulnerable families, to make our communities safer and to make life more affordable for families," said Premier Clark. "We know that affordability is a challenge for many families, and that's why, among other things, we have increased the minimum wage and held the line on BC Hydro rate increases. We are committed to continuing to help B.C. families, which is why I am pleased to announce our Repayment Assistance Plan for people with student loans."
The new two-stage Repayment Assistance Plan for students is a key part of the Family Affordability Pillar and will take effect on July 1. The first stage provides payment assistance for the interest portion of the student loan, while the second stage provides payment assistance for the principal portion of a loan.
"When it comes to repaying student loans, we want to ensure that low-income students and their families have the extra support they need to move forward," said Premier Clark. "The student loan repayment assistance program will help about 20,000 students in B.C. with low incomes who are struggling to get ahead."
"Our government is working with the provinces and territories so students and their families can afford post-secondary education," said the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages and Minister responsible for British Columbia. "While most borrowers repay their loans without difficulty, some require assistance. By aligning our programs, the governments of Canada and B.C. are providing students with additional support."
"B.C. has been working with the Government of Canada over the last year to improve our student loan services," said Minister Yamamoto. "We have heard from students that they need flexibility and support to get them through their post-secondary education. The Repayment Assistance Plan delivers on that feedback - students will now have more direct support when they need it the most."
The Families First Agenda for British Columbia builds on Family-First actions by the provincial government, including:
- A Family Day for British Columbians, as promised by Premier Christy Clark, on the second Monday of February starting in 2013.
- Increasing the minimum wage, meaning B.C. has the second-highest in Canada.
- A $195-million Learning Improvement Fund to provide additional support to teachers and administrators, and added resources to classrooms with the highest needs.
- Expanding the AMBER Alert system so that 30,000 civil servants receive alerts at work and on their mobile devices, helping police return children to their families faster.
- Close to 58,000 net new jobs have been added to the B.C. economy since February 2011.
- The B.C. First-Time New Home Buyer's $10,000 Bonus and the B.C. Seniors' $1,000 annual Home Renovation Tax Credit for those 65 years of age and older.
- A 50 per cent reduction in BC Hydro's proposed rates over three years.
- The Smoking Cessation Program assists British Columbians with the cost of smoking cessation aids.
- The Children's Fitness Credit and the Children's Arts Credit.
- Full-day kindergarten.
The Families First Agenda for British Columbia is designed to help B.C. families continue to progress and thrive. Three pillars are at the heart of the Families First Agenda: Supporting Vulnerable Families; Safe Communities, Strong Families; and Family Affordability.
The agenda also includes opportunities for B.C. families to bring their ideas forward with the launch of a new website www.FamiliesFirstBC.ca and consultations that will occur throughout the summer and fall. It asks specific questions related to the programs and measures put forward including:
- Best approaches to early childhood development and child care.
- Ideas to improve the StrongStart program.
- Input on how to help keep families, including seniors, active and healthy.
- Best ways to save for education and training.
"Our government has a great track record of progressive and innovative policies and programs that help families, but as the needs of families change, so must government's approach," said Premier Clark. "We will consult with British Columbians on key elements of the Families First Agenda and will report back with a summary of these consultations over the course of the fall. The ideas we hear from families will inform future budget priorities."
The B.C. government has kept taxes low and government spending under control, bringing substantial benefits to B.C. families. Since 2001, provincial personal income taxes for most taxpayers have been reduced by 37 per cent or more. These changes mean an additional 325,000 people no longer pay B.C. income tax, and a total of more than one million British Columbians pay no provincial income tax.
"By focusing on growing B.C.'s economy, our government is creating an environment where families can thrive," said Premier Clark. "We are also making targeted investments to support those that need it most. We will continue to find ways to innovate in existing programs, to ensure that they are making a difference for B.C. families."
The full Families First Agenda for British Columbia can be found at: www.FamiliesFirstBC.ca
A backgrounder follows.
Director of Communications
Office of the Premier
June 25, 2012 Office of the Premier
New Services Designed with Students in Mind
B.C. student loan Repayment Assistance Plan (RAP)
- On July 1, B.C. is introducing a new, two-stage Repayment Assistance Plan (RAP) for students to ensure that low-income students-and their families-have extra support when repaying their student loans.
- RAP is based on the borrower's ability to repay; income, family size and student loan debt load are all considered in the eligibility process for RAP.
- The first stage provides payment assistance for the interest portion of the student loan while the second stage provides payment assistance for the principal portion of a loan.
- RAP was designed by the federal government, with input from B.C. and other provinces. RAP replaces B.C.'s Interest Relief program.
- What's different is flexibility: for those students over the income threshold, they can benefit from a reduced, affordable payment. With B.C.'s current Interest Relief program, a student with income even slightly higher than the threshold wouldn't be eligible for any assistance- with RAP, it means that now, depending on an individual's income and family size, they may only have to pay a portion of their regular payments.
- What's also different is loan forgiveness: over time RAP stage 2 will forgive a portion-and in some cases, all-of a borrower's debt based on their income and family size. No such program currently exists in B.C.
- Students with a permanent disability can also qualify for RAP-PD. This is an accelerated RAP program where, at the end of 10 years, if an individual can still not afford their monthly payments, their loans will be paid in full.
Examples of B.C.'s new RAP plan
Family size 3 (2 children, 1 parent with loan)
Average annual income: $36,000
Student loan: $20,000
Expected monthly student loan payment $228
Total affordable payment on RAP: $0.00 Family size 4 (2 children, 2 parents with loans)
Average annual income: $50,000
Combined student loans: 40,000
Expected monthly student loan payment: $485
Total combined payment required on RAP: $87
A mobile-friendly Student Aid BC website
- On June 4, 2012, a new Student Aid BC website went live at: www.studentaidbc.ca
- By using modern web technologies, the site is mobile and can be viewed on any device regardless of screen size.
- The site's layout and design were created based on student research, integrates with social media, provides real time analytics and was developed using the ministry's existing resources and technology infrastructure. Check out more on twitter: @studentaidbc
Director of Communications
Office of the Premier