Lobby the BC Government to create an up-front, needs-based grants program for low-income students.
The majority of students from middle- and lower-income families need to take out student loans to pay for their education, and these students are more likely to come from marginalized backgrounds. When students who have to take on loans graduate, they often start out in the labour market with huge amounts of debt – an albatross that perpetuates their economic disadvantage. Personal debt loans limit their purchasing power and capacity to engage in the economy for years after graduation. Students from marginalized groups are statistically likely to continue to make less money over their lives in comparison to their university-educated peers. This means that due to the interest rates on student loans, a poor and/or otherwise marginalized student will pay more for their education than someone coming from a more privileged background – and they will pay for a longer period of time.
Last year the Government of Ontario made changes to its student financial aid system that will make average college and university tuition free for low-income students. In Ontario, the majority of eligible full-time students whose parents make a combined household income of less than $50,000 per year will receive non-repayable needs-based grants that enable them to access post-secondary education. The Government of Ontario is eliminating barriers to access post-secondary education as a part of its strategy to create jobs and grow its economy. It is doing this by investing in its people and by offering people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds a real educational opportunity that will improve their economic standing.
Meanwhile, B.C. remains an outlier – the only province without a needs-based grants program where students receive the lowest proportion of non-repayable student assistance in the country. We are creating the most indebted generation in history – a socioeconomic development that will have deep and long-lasting consequences for British Columbians and the long-term health of our economy. If the B.C. government wants to lay the foundations for a growing, robust, and diverse economy, it should take the lead from the Government of Ontario (and all other Canadian provinces) and create a provincial system of up-front, needs-based grants.