The pre-election budget of the B.C. Liberal government offers little for those who need help paying for postsecondary education, according to groups representing students and faculty members.
Katie Marocchi, chair of the Canadian Federation of Students–B.C., indicated the fiscal plan is inadequate.
“Students were essentially disappointed with the financial-aid program that they introduced,” she told the Straight by phone, referring to the B.C. Training and Education Savings Grant. B.C. parents can apply for the one-time, $1,200 grant to be deposited into a Registered Education Savings Plan once their child turns six years old.
“The value of the grant when they enter postsecondary will only cover one-quarter of the first year of education, and that’s not factoring in consideration of tuition-fee increases over the next 12 years,” Marocchi said. “We’ve waited eight years for a replacement financial-aid program since the B.C. Liberals cut the provincial grants program in 2004, and then this is what we got and it was far more inferior and not effective, and certainly not needs-based.”
Robert Clift, executive director of the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of B.C., also criticized the B.C. Training and Education Savings Grant.
“The government’s contribution won’t even cover the increase in tuition fees by the time that kid hits 18,” he told the Straight in a phone interview.
Clift noted that his organization had hoped to see new funding for student aid. “They talked a lot about student aid in the budget yesterday, but they talked about programs that have been in existence for years,” he said.
According to Clift, a single student living solely off student loans “has less to live on each month than a welfare recipient”.
As Finance Minister Mike de Jong tabled the B.C. budget on February 19, he told the legislature his government is “more determined than ever to hold the line” on spending. According to budget documents, the Ministry of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology will see $46 million in spending cuts over the next three years.
Responding to the budget, NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston stated that the fiscal plan contains “little to address student debt”.
“This in a province where students graduate with an average of $27,000 in debt, the highest debt load west of the Maritimes,” he said in the legislature.