Liberals boost student loans

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By Jordan Press

Prime Minister Paul Martin’s first budget was revealed yesterday and post-secondary education was high on the spending list, but student groups are saying money won’t solve any problems.

Yesterday’s budget increased limits on student loans, from $165 to $210 a week, to let more applicants get the full allotment provided through the $1.5 billion a year CAnada Student Loans Program.

Finance Minister Ralph Goodale also announced that decreased parental contribution guidelines will ensure that more students qualify for the loans and that the government will issue 20,000 grants of up to $3,000 each for low-income first-year post-secondary students.

Though it doesn’t help current Ryerson students, Goodale announced a learning bond of $500 to be issued to every child born after 2003. The government will add $100 to the bond every year until the child enters post-secondary education.

Currently, about half of the almost 350,000 yearly student loan applicants get the full amount allowed, forcing many students to work part-time jobs, according to a report released two weeks ago from the Educational Policy Institute.

The study also said parental contribution, a key measure in determining how much money an applicant gets, has dropped to 17 per cent of a student’s funding, down from 35 per cent when the loan program first started about 40 years ago.

In response, Goodale announced yesterday that students from middle-income families will be able to get more money, which they currently don’t get because the program assumes parents pay more for their children’s education.

“Too many Canadians, especially from low- and middle-income families, see a post-secondary education as an unattainable goal,” Goodale said. “Not because the challenge is too great, but because the cost is too high.”

While Goodale said the new loan measures would improve this, the Canadian Federation of Students said the changes will only force student debt to higher levels.

“In terms of priorities, we’re not denying there’s a need out there,” said CFS President Ian Boyko. “[But] we should draw a line in the sand.”

“We’re opposed to driving students deeper in debt.”

Boyko said expanding the loan program will increase access to post-secondary education is a myth, and that it will only force students to pay more for their education.

Ryerson President Claude Lajeunesse was hoping to see some help for universities, hoping the Liberals would exempt universities from paying the GST like cities.

Unfortunately for Lajeunesse, that wasn’t part of Goodale’s budget.

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