I’m still trying to figure out why school’s so expensive

There are plenty of things students could spend their money on if school was less expensive –new clothes, shoes and even entertainment items. However, the excited feeling of plundering the racks of discounted items and leaving a store with bags packed with new threads and electronics is a short one. When faced with a quadruple-digit red ink bill for another back to school experience, BC students are facing a situation where achieving a post-secondary education is accompanied with an ever-increasingly expensive price tag.

According to a recent press release from Statistics Canada, the average tuition in BC post-secondary institutions is now reaching an average of $4,800 and is expected to increase. Tuition has been on the double-digit rise since 2002, when tuition averaged around $3,749 across the nation.  This is in addition to the cost of books, supplies and other school fees which soon becomes a daunting smear of red ink.
“Education in BC is a debt sentence for tens of thousands of families,” stated Nimmi Takkar, Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students-British Columbia. “This study confirms what we all know: tuition fees have never been higher. It’s no coincidence that student debt in BC is also at record levels.”

This offers no relief or hope to the many students in debt, which has reached a provincial average of $27,000. Adding interest to this sum can inflate that debt to $34,365 over a 10-year repayment period.
Since tuition is the largest expense for most university and college students, this average debt can be expected to rise higher as tuition fees inflate and the need for a university education becomes more and more a necessity. At Capilano University, tuition in a standard four-course semester is at $1,334.16 and the rest of the expenses total at $217.98, meaning tuition makes up roughly 85 per cent of fees.
In 2002, Premier Gordon Campbell unfroze on BC tuitions, stating that the government no longer has a role in protecting students from tuition fee increases, leaving universities to arbitrarily fix rates.
The increasing cost in tuition has left many more students to depend on programs like StudentAid so that they can afford an education.

“In 2009 the StudentAid BC budget was cut by 28 per cent. In 2010 total tuition fees in BC will surpass what is collected in corporate income tax. Add the HST to the picture and average families are paying more and getting less,” said Takkar.

StudentAid is a government-run organization that helps eligible students with paying for post-secondary education by offering loans, grants, bursaries, scholarships and special programs. With its budget haemorrhaging, it is only going to get harder for students who have relied upon this much needed financial aid to continue on in post-secondary and for the future in-need pupils. Many students who had applied to StudentAid found out when their grants failed to appear that the cuts had been made and were given no warning.

According to Moira Stilwell, the Minister of Advanced Education, the budget cut of $16 million is caused by the economic downturn.

Not only is the present issue of debt and fees worrying, but graduates, approximately half of which are in student debt, are emerging into a job market that is facing a rising unemployment rate (8.1 per cent as of August 2010). This makes it harder for the debt-ridden students to pay off their loans and will incur more interest on their loans, creating a vicious cycle.

The student loan interest rates in British Columbia are the fourth highest in Canada, sitting at the prime interest rate plus 2.5 per cent a year. The prime interest rate is at 2.75 per cent as of now, with 2.5 per cent added to that number each year. In simpler terms, if an outstanding loan was at $30,000 and it was paid back in 10 years, the total sum would be $38,625, assuming the loans were paid back immediately after the student’s graduation. If the grace period of six months was used, that number increases to $39,638.

With the current financial issues, troubling times are ahead for BC students. With no foreseeable light at the end of the tunnel, it appears it will instead only get darker.

//Haley Whishaw

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