Ravi Kahlon, BC’s Parliamentary Secretary for Sport & Multiculturalism meets with staff, students and alumni at CMTN to discuss the BC Government’s decision to eliminate interest on student loans. (Storm Carroll/CMTN photo)

Zero-interest student loans a huge relief: CMTN student union

Parliamentary secretary hears from Terrace students, alumni and staff

Students at Coast Mountain College joined in celebrating a provincial announcement to eliminate any future interest accumulated on student loans.

More than 200,000 people with existing provincial student loans will no longer have to pay interest effective Feb. 19. The B.C. government announced this in their 2019 budget presentation.

Ravi Kahlon, BC’s Parliamentary Secretary for Sport & Multiculturalism, stopped by CMTN in Terrace on March 14. He met with alumni, staff and students to discuss the announcement in a round-table discussion on what this means locally.

READ MORE: Students give two thumbs up to no more B.C. student loan interest

“It’s affecting families, not only students. Our hope is that more people will now see education as a path for them in their future, and financial barriers will become less, so people can achieve their dreams,” Kahlon says.

These 200,000 outstanding loans represent $1.24 billion in revenue. Borrowers will collectively save about $22 million in interest payments over the next year, according to a provincial press release.

This write-off does not include existing interest payments but does stop further accumulation.

A typical undergraduate borrower has $11,200 in B.C. student loan debt, and $28,000 in total student loan debt, including both federal and provincial loans, according to the press release. Eliminating interest on the provincial debt would save this borrower $2,300 over the 10-year repayment period.

“All interest on student loans is a tax on working and lower-income people who are dependent on education in order to achieve higher paying jobs. If they can’t pay off their loans, how can they afford to start a family, to buy a home, or a car?” says Lenda Girard, student union organizer for CMTN.

Students have been advocating for interest-free loans in B.C. for years to make their education more affordable, Girard says. The stress and mental hardship of only being able to afford to pay the interest rate on a loan can be insurmountable.

“By the time you pay it off in 10-15 years, you’ve now paid another $30,000, when your loan was $20,000,” Girard says.

Communications director Sarah Zimmerman agrees, remembering when she had student loans after university.

“I know how expensive it is to pay it back, and knowing that the payments you’re making are going to your principle instead of paying interest is a huge relief for students,” Zimmerman says.

Mitigating the rising costs of student loans was one of the first goals of B.C.’s NDP government when they came into power, an issue Premier John Horgan campaigned on in the 2017 election.

BC Liberal opposition leader Andrew Wilkson denounced the B.C. government’s decision to forgive future interest accumulated on student loans entirely, saying it may encourage students to get “carried away” with how much they’re borrowing.

READ MORE: B.C. Liberal leader says students should pay interest on loans

“If there’s no interest whatsoever, then students are likely to borrow more,” Wilkinson said. Facing immediate backlash, he later clarified in a tweet that interest-free student loans should be supported with credit counselling.

Kahlon called Wilkinson’s comments “insensitive and out-of-touch” with the economic problems students face today.

“They should come and talk to students here at this college, and they’ll hear from them how much this impacts their lives,” he says. “Obviously we need to do more, and we’re going to continue to do more.”

Girard says she found Wilkinson’s remarks about students not being able to manage their own debt “ironic and hurtful” given his previous experience as the minister of advanced education.

“The only way they can have a student loan is to budget how they spend their money, because that’s all that they have in order to live,” she says.

CMTN’s student union is now organizing a secondary campaign where people can email the Prime Minister directly to ask for the elimination of interest on federal loans entirely.

“Almost half the provinces in the country don’t charge interest on student loans now — why can’t the federal side also eliminate interest?” Girard says.

In February, the federal government announced it will write off more than $200 million in outstanding student loan payments from more than 30,000 students, this marking the third write-off in the last four years. The Liberals have also increased the minimum annual income students have to make before they’re required to pay.


 


brittany@terracestandard.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Off to the Provincials

For the past two seasons Houston resident, Eryn has been curling out… Continue reading

Free community movie in Houston

On Feb. 14 the PV Plaza present the Disney movie Tangled. Coastal… Continue reading

Morice Mountain Winter Challenge in Houston

The Morice Mountain Winter Challenge was held Feb. 9 from10 a.m. -… Continue reading

It’s flu season

Northern Health recently dealt with an outbreak of influenza in the Prince… Continue reading

District begins search for downtown contractor

Hopes for contract to be let in early spring

VIDEO: 7 things you need to know about the 2020 B.C. budget

Surplus of $227 million with big spending on infrastructure and capital projects

Via Rail lays off 1,000 employees temporarily as anti-pipeline blockades drag on

The Crown corporation has suspended passenger trains on its Montreal-Toronto and Ottawa-Toronto

VIDEO: Knife-wielding man arrested after barricading himself in Lower Mainland Walmart

A man had barricaded himself in the freezer section of the fish area at a Walmart in Richmond

Budget 2020: Weaver ‘delighted,’ minority B.C. NDP stable

Project spending soars along with B.C.’s capital debt

B.C. widow ‘crushed’ over stolen T-shirts meant for memorial blanket

Lori Roberts lost her fiancé one month ago Tuesday now she’s lost almost all she had left of him

Higher costs should kill Trans Mountain pipeline, federal opposition says

Most recent total was $12.6 billion, much higher than a previous $7.4-billion estimate

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say they’ll meet with ministers if RCMP get out

Federal minister in charge of Indigenous relations has proposed a meeting to diffuse blockades

Trees Cannabis director fined $1.5M for selling marijuana

Fine follows provincial crackdown on popular dispensary

World Cup skier from Okanagan dies suddenly at 19

Kuroda, who made his World Cup debut earlier this year, passed away suddenly Monday night.

Most Read