Ontario NDP Plans Student Loan Interest Relief

Student debt is that albatross weighing on Rawan Malak every day.

While she’s thrilled to be enrolled in a collaborative Brock University and George Brown College program she loves, it has come with its costs.

“I’m currently a little over $25,000 in debt,” said Malak, 20, who is in her third year in labour studies at Brock and human resources at George Brown. “There are so many things going on in my mind after finishing my education.”

“The things I’m going to take into consideration are possibly putting a hold on my future in family life … as I can’t even support myself,” said the Niagara Falls resident.

On Monday, Malak joined a group of students and NDP MPPs for an announcement by Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath that an NDP government would eliminate interest from student loans as a step to deal with student debt loads in Ontario.

The announcement came after Horwath met with students at Brock in a roundtable to talk about student debt load.

Malak said the elimination of interest would be a welcome start.

“It would eliminate (some of the) stress. I am supporting what she is doing for the students,” she said.

In a media event after the roundtable at Brock, Horwath said she’s heard from students that they are “very very concerned that they debt they’re carrying … upon graduation is significantly impacting their lives.”

She said since 2009, Ontario has had the highest average undergraduate and graduate tuition fees in Canada.

The average debt load for a young person with a four-year undergraduate degree is $28,000 and for a post-graduate degree it’s $35,000, Horwath said.

The NDP leader added she’d spoken to students considering post-graduate studies, college or professional programs like law school. “Each and every time the dream was shared, it was overcast by a real sense of worry and anxiety around the debtloads they’re going to be carrying after they complete their studies,” she said.

That debt is also worrisome for students’ families. Horwath added.

“New Democrats are making a commitment that when we form a government in this province, we will not charge provincial interest on those (students) loans,” Horwath said at the media event. “That’s the very least we can do to try to start having an impact on the debt burden they’re carrying.

“This is one way to take a little bit of that burden off,” she said in a gathering that included NDP MPP’s Cindy Forster and Wayne Gates.

Patrick Forster, president of Brock University Students’ Association, said he applauded Horwath’s move.

“I can’t speak to any of the logistics of it,” Forster said. “But student debt is a huge concern amongst students. I also think it limits students coming to post-secondary institutions.

“So any work and government or party does to try to alleviate that is extremely beneficial to students.

“I do applaud her efforts in her intended plan and I’d love to see (other political parties) also adopt a similar policy.”

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