The plight of B.C. post-secondary students was on clear display in front of the B.C. Legislature Wednesday morning.
The University of Victoria Students’ Society staged a protest to voice their opposition to the rising tuition rates that are threatening to bury the next generation of Canadian workers beneath a mountain of debt.
The Rally Against Student Debt asked the B.C. government to freeze tuition, increase core funding and phase out tuition fees over the next 10 years, while requesting Ottawa implement a federal Post-Secondary Education Act with an accompanying increase to the Canada Social Transfer for post-secondary education.
Those graduating from UVic and other post-secondary institutions in the province face a monumental challenge. The average B.C. post-secondary grad is left with $35,000 in debt, while facing the highest student loan interest rates in the country. And before being able to whittle down that debt they must first overcome a 13 per cent youth unemployment rate and 27 per cent underemployment rate.
Students are not asking for a free ride. Increased funding to make post-secondary education more affordable is an investment in a stronger economy for the future. A recent study showed that post-secondary graduates pay more than the full cost of their diploma or degree in taxes after graduation.
While there is no doubt a post-secondary education brings a dramatic increase to a worker’s earning power, an educated workforce also strengthens Canada’s economic foundation. All levels of government need to do more to make sure that a quality education is available to Canadians of all income levels.
Hopefully Canada’s political leaders can hear the impassioned plea from the next generation before debt overcomes their once-promising futures.