B.C. government puts students in crosshairs

Proposal would deny driver’s licence to those who default on student loans

Governments and parties of all political stripes have long recognized that a well-trained workforce is the key to economic prosperity – for the country, the province and for individual Canadians.

While that sentiment may appear obvious to even the most casual observer, the B.C. Liberal government apparently hasn’t learned that lesson.

A new proposal was announced last week that would deny driver’s licences to those who are in default on their student loans.

“Denying a driver’s licence to young people struggling to pay back their loans is sure to cost jobs, resulting in more defaults, not fewer,” said Zachary Crispin, B.C. chair of the Canadian Federation of Students.

There’s certainly more that could be done to encourage the repayment of student loans. But those actions must be coupled with measures to relieve students straining  under a mountain of debt.

The move comes following years of criticism that the province isn’t doing enough to make post-secondary education affordable. B.C. charges the highest rate of interest on student loans of any province. And instead of providing students with ways to get out from under that debt, the provincial government is putting up obstacles that will limit their opportunities to get work upon graduation.

The proposal from Finance Minister Mike de Jong comes on the heels of B.C. Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson reporting that 70 per cent of students graduate without debt. However, the government’s own surveys show that 49 per cent of students are faced with debt upon graduation.

When the minister responsible for advanced education is unaware of the challenges faced by those trying to get an education, it’s little wonder post-secondary students concerns continue to fall on deaf ears. Maybe someone needs to ask the minister to stay after class.

It’s almost enough to make you laugh, before you realize that these are the same people responsible for devising the policies that will punish B.C. students for years to come.