Editorial: Debt burden eased with student loan relief

We don't agree with Wilkinson that B.C. students will rack up debt if loans are interest free

BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson can’t catch a break — and it’s his own fault.

One moment, he’s excoriated for his comments about renters — for which he apologized, although even that was late, after he attempted to power through the controversy by spinning talking points — and now his comments about interest-free student loans have people in a tizzy on social media.

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Wilkinson apparently raised the ire of mostly NDP MLAs about his concerns about students racking up all kinds of debt if loans are interest-free after the NDP government eliminated the interest on B.C. student loans effective Feb. 19.

Is he right about that? Would students go crazy and hit the bars, restaurants and online shopping sites now that loans are interest free?

Hardly.

First, those who have loans still had to pay interest until Feb. 19 (at the prime rate, currently, 3.95%) plus they will still have to pay interest on the Canada Student Loan portion, as much as 7% or more depending on the type of loan.

 

Those are still substantial interest rates, and while Wilkinson is understandably warning about problematic debt, he can surely admit that a break on B.C. student loans can only help.

The previous BC Liberal government could have cancelled the interest sooner but it wasn’t a priority, especially since for a number of years, interest rates were low. They are not low now and they are climbing.

If students can get a bit of a break on their debt, they will be better placed to move on with their lives once they graduate, and we think it’s the government’s job to ensure that post-secondary education is affordable.

As for students starting out racking up a lot of debt, we think that won’t happen needlessly. It’s not easy to get a student loan — there are all sorts of requirements, parents are expected to kick in a portion and their assets are part of the documentation.

Still, it’s important that students look at the long term and whether the degree they are getting will generate the job — and the income — to pay off the debt they may incur.

Nobody likes to hear about school debt killing the future of young people who are already facing high housing costs and higher fees on everything from car insurance to electricity to gas.

If Wilkinson wants to tackle affordability issues for young people, he has to understand students’ current experience, not make flippant comments based on his own outdated views and partisan politicking.

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