The student debt load was a “common theme” heard among students at the new UFV campus in Chilliwack and at the Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, says Chilliwack-Hope MLA Gwen O’Mahony.
Inter-campus transportation between Chilliwack and Abbotsford was also an issue at the UFV campus, she said.
O’Mahony, the NDP’s skills training critic, and Michelle Mungall, NDP education critic, started a tour of 10 post-secondary institutions in B.C. with a visit to the UFV campus last Thursday.
O’Mahony said the New Democrats have a solution to both student concerns.
She said NDP Leader Adrian Dix has committed to bringing in a $100-million needs-based, non-repayable student grant program to ease the debt load of B.C. students, who currently carry an average $27,000 in debt after graduating from a four-year program.
“This is the largest debt load in Canada,” O’Mahony said, with the highest provincial interest rates in the country.
She said the NDP has also advocated using funds collected from the carbon tax to pay for transportation projects, which could solve the problem of getting students to classes in Chilliwack and Abbotsford.
She said a shuttle bus like a “really successful” one at Kwantlen could solve the inter-campus transportation problem, or the long-proposed restoration of the old Interurban transit line.
“At the end of the day, it comes down to the dollar,” she said.
O’Mahony said there were other issues raised during the visit, like high tuition costs, but the “big issue” was the student debt load.
“Up to 80 percent of new jobs created over the next decade will require some form of advanced education or skills training,” O’Mahony said.
“That’s why British Columbians need a government that’s committed to expanding educational opportunities so that our young people have the skills needed to fill the jobs of tomorrow,” she said.