April 13, 2017 9:18 pm
Updated: April 13, 2017 11:09 pm

B.C. NDP promises interest-free student loans if elected

WATCH: Nadia Stewart looks at what all three major political parties say they will do to help out stressed out students.

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As the B.C. NDP official election platform rolled out on Thursday, tucked inside the list of promises was a pledge to make attending post-secondary education more affordable.

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan announced his party would eliminate interest rates on student loans and provide students with a $1,000 completion grant if it wins next month’s provincial election.

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The completion grant would be gifted to graduates of college, university and skilled trades programs “to help pay down debt,” the party platform said. The plan would also make adult basic education and ESL classes free.

The NDP says Canada’s national student debt load is $27,000 on average, but B.C.’s is much higher — the highest in Canada — at $35,000.

Where the other parties stand on post-secondary education

According to the B.C. Liberal platform, that party promises to lower the interest rate on student loans to the prime interest rate and maintain a two per cent cap on tuition and fee increases at provincial post-secondary institutions.

The B.C. Greens say they would create needs-based grants for students and offer tax forgiveness of up to $2,000 per year for up to five years while graduates repay student loans.

Tuition crunch

Critics say under the current system, education has become a “death sentence” for some students. The B.C. Federation of Students chairperson Simka Marshall says students who study for four or five years sometimes end up taking 10 to 15 years to pay off their loans.

“A lot of people are graduating with a lot of debt these days,” said financial planner Alim Dhanji.

Dhanji says that unless something changes, graduates will have to keep living like students long after they leave school.

“Keep your costs really low, don’t take on more debt than you already have,” Dhanji advises.

Students in B.C. pay about $1,000 more per year in tuition than they did in 2006, according to Statistics Canada. Since 2001, when the B.C. Liberal party took power, tuition has increased by $2,211 — more than any other province.

READ MORE: University tuition fees in Canada rise 40 per cent in a decade

On average across Canada, undergraduates pay 40 per cent more in tuition than they did 10 years ago.

— With files from Nadia Stewart and Patrick Cain

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