In advance of the provincial budget, which is scheduled to be released next Tuesday, post-secondary students are calling on the government to create an up-front, need-based grants program.
The B.C. Federation of Students said British Columbia is the only province without a comprehensive student grant program or non-repayable loans.
While tuition fees have more than doubled since 2001, financial assistance options for students and their families have been reduced to little more than student loans, according to the group.
“B.C. has the lowest amount of non-repayable financial assistance in Canada and, without a comprehensive grants program, many students and their families carry large amounts of debt before even getting a start on life,” said Thompson Rivers University vice-president external Kole Lawrence in a release.
“Creating a grants program in B.C. would ensure students and their families with lower income levels have the same opportunities for education here as in other provinces.”
The federation said student loan debt in B.C. is nearly $4.5 billion, with the average student loan debt after a four-year degree more than $30,000.
The federation said an up-front, need-based grants program would not only increase access to college and university education, but it would enhance completion rates among students with loan debt.
“Recent public opinion polling shows that 89 per cent of Kamloops residents support the creation of an up-front needs-based system of financial aid for B.C. students,” Lawrence said.
“Although programs like education tax credits may help those who graduate, it does not effectively reduce the financial burdens students face throughout their studies.”
For more than a decade, the TRU Students Union and the B.C. Federation of Students have advocated for a student grant program.
Their current campaign — Grants, Not Loans — calls on the government to re-allocate funds to establish a comprehensive grants program that better supports students in the province..
The B.C. Federation of Students represents in excess of 170,000 students at 15 universities, colleges and institutes in the province.