B.C. Liberal leadership contender Moira Stilwell says she wants to see a decrease to interest rates on postsecondary student loans.
But the provincial chair of a national student lobby group argues the former cabinet minister should go further.
“At the current rate of prime plus 2.5 per cent, the student loan interest rate in B.C. is the highest in Canada,” Stilwell says in a news release today (November 29).
“I believe it should be reduced to no more than prime plus one per cent.”
The Canadian Federation of Students has voiced a mixed response to the Vancouver-Langara MLA’s policy-platform announcement.
“We acknowledge that it’s a step, but we would like to challenge her to take that a step further and to eliminate interest on student loans altogether,” said Nimmi Takkar, the organization’s B.C. chair.
“Students in this province are drowning in debt,” Takkar told the Straight today by phone.
On average, B.C. postsecondary students graduate after four years with $27,000 in debt, she claimed.
Stilwell, who was not immediately available for an interview, says the rate reduction would help boost the economy by fostering the development of skilled workers.
Takkar said students will be keeping a close eye on the candidates who hope to succeed Gordon Campbell as premier after Liberal party members vote for a new leader in late February 2011.
“They would like to see the next premier of this province have a vision for postsecondary education, one that includes an affordable, accessible plan for postsecondary education.”
The CFS is also calling for tuition-fee reductions, creation of a grants system, and increases to the core funding institutions receive.
Before resigning from cabinet to enter the leadership fray, Stilwell was regional economic and skills development minister, a portfolio that covered college-level matters. First elected as MLA in 2009, she has also served as minister of advanced education.
Former education minister George Abbott is the only other person to have launched a leadership campaign. Cabinet ministers Mike de Jong and Kevin Falcon are expected to announce plans in the coming days.