Students say they are concerned for their future because of the lack of discussion about education debt among political leaders on the campaign trail.
Most of the federal parties have addressed their plans to aid students on their journey to overcome the financial burden of undergraduate studies.
CTV News reports the Liberal government is offering a relief benefit to students, paused student loan repayments to be interest-free, and doubled the student grant from $3,000 to $6,000. The NDP is promising to cancel up to $20,000 in federal debt per student, put an immediate stop to loan payments during the pandemic, and eliminate student debt interest.
The Conservative party’s current platform does not mention post-secondary education or student stability. The Green Party says it would abolish post-secondary tuition, and cancel all federally-held student loan debt. The Bloc Quebecois says it would increase the transfer payments to provinces and territories to help pay for post-secondary education, CTV News reports.
X University student Mohammad Umair, who is completing his Bachelor of Electrical Engineering degree, says he pays anywhere between $10,000 to $12,000 a year depending on his course load. He says he is concerned about the lack of attention being paid to students’ financial load.
“It makes me think they don’t really care about the youth of Canada and the type of mindset that it’s creating for us,” Umair says. “For me personally, schools feel more like businesses rather than institutes designed to educate the workforce of the future. It feels like schools are already robbing us, there’s no reason to have the government putting us into debt either.
Umair, 22, says he will have to pay back a debt of approximately $45,000 to $50,000 when he completes his degree.
“It’s not ideal that just when I’m getting started with my life after graduation I’ll have a massive debt to worry about while looking for jobs and trying to support myself and be independent,” Umair says.
The provincial government offers financial help to students who need it through the Ontario Student Assistant Program (OSAP). Additionally, the federal government spends $5.7 billion to help young people access education and find jobs, according to Michel Proulx for University Affairs.
“OSAP is a huge help as it provides me with a large sum of money to help me cover my costs for tuition since as a student who is unemployed, I can’t come up with that much money on a semester basis to pay my tuition on time,” Umair says.
Umair believes loans should be completely forgiven for students who can’t afford to pay them back by the time they graduate.
“I think they should be forgiven for students who can’t afford to pay them back since a post-secondary degree doesn’t exactly guarantee a high-paying job that’ll ensure you’re able to pay back your loan,” Umair says. “Job opportunities aren’t equal and different degrees get you different jobs, there’s no reason people who are already struggling to find a good use for their education should have to worry about a massive loan alongside it.”