BCFS calls on BC government to keep promise
By Katie Czenczek, News Editor
The British Columbia Federation of Students (BCFS) is calling all students who hate student debt to rise up and email the provincial government.
The student-led organization started the campaign to put pressure on the government in hopes of eliminating interest on student loans in British Columbia. Specifically, BCFS has called on current and former students to send a letter to Finance Minister Carole James and has submitted recommendations to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services. BCFS hopes that the government will announce that they will no longer charge interest rates for student loans in their 2019 budget proposal.
Effective August 1 of last year, the NDP government reduced provincial student loans. The floating rate was reduced by 2.5 percent while the fixed rate was reduced by five percent, leading to $17 million in revenue being cut out of the budget. The reduction did not impact federal interest rates on student loans, which are still set at 2.7 percent plus an additional 2.5 percent. These interest rates mean that a student can pay up to $10,000 more for the exact same education compared to someone who does not need student loans.
Aran Armutlu, Chairperson for the BCFS, said in a video posted on their website that interest rates unfairly target people who struggle to pay for their education without the help of a student loan.
“This interest is a tax on low- and middle-income students,” he said. “The system unfairly punishes those who can’t afford to pay education costs upfront.”
The NDP listed eliminating student loan interest rates as a part of their campaign promises in the 2017 election, but has failed to do so thus far. The BC Greens, who formed a minority government with the NDP that year, listed in their campaign promise that they would offer tax forgiveness of up to $2,000 per year for up to five years for graduates trying to repay their loans.
Armutlu stated in the video that since 1999, interest rates have risen 88 percent in British Columbia. Provincewide, it is estimated that around 205,000 students are repaying student loans, and they’re likely to be paying over $30,000 upon graduation.
Megan Meyer, a former student at Douglas College, said in an interview with the Other Press that she will need to use student loans in order to pay for her education.
“I’m actually in the process of applying for a student loan right now,” she said. “I took out a line of credit for my first year of school but decided to go with a student loan because of the fact that I don’t have to make a payment until after I’m done studying.”
Meyer, who is now currently enrolled at Kwantlen Park University in the Business program, also said that she thinks it’s unfair for interest to be charged on student loans.
“I definitely don’t think that the government should charge interest on student loans, considering how expensive things are in Canada right now—especially for people going to school.”