TORONTO — The financial burden of student debt is at historic levels, according to the Canadian Federation of Students. The Green Party of Canada believes that universal access to quality post-secondary education and skills training is a right, not a privilege. Moreover, post-secondary education is part of Canada’s treaty obligations to Indigenous People and a key focus for reconciliation.
A Green Party government will make college and university education free for all Canadian students. It will forgive the portion of existing student debt held by the federal government, remove the two per cent cap on increases in funding for Indigenous students and ensure that all Indigenous youth have access to post-secondary education.
“We need to completely re-evaluate our approach to funding post-secondary education and skills training in Canada,” said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May. “In order to have an informed and discerning citizenry, every student must have the option to pursue post-secondary education, no matter what income bracket they are in. Too many graduates begin their adult lives with crushing debt loads while lost opportunities face those who simply forgo higher education because they cannot afford it.”
Amanda Moddejonge running in Thunder Bay-Rainy River says, “As a student who benefitted from free tuition I can tell you honestly that program worked. It is absolutely heart wrenching that the provincial conservatives scrapped the provincial contributions. You can see that green policies work, especially because other parties implement them when they are elected because our communities need these types of initiatives.
“Education is one of the foundational parts of our transition to a green economy. Our economy is rapidly changing, and the best way to ensure this is done appropriately and responsibly is to provide the right kind of education to support people going into these jobs. Education needs to be accessible and attainable for everyone in order to ensure equal access for all people.”
May noted that many universities are caught in a spiral of fund-raising to provide education of diminishing quality. Dramatic funding cuts dating back to the 1990s mean universities have come to depend on part-time contract instructors, higher tuition fees and fundraising to balance the books. A Green government will reinvest in the system and allocate $10 billion to post-secondary and trade school supports.
“There’s no way we can be competitive globally if we don’t ensure our young people can get the education or skills training they need. That’s why we will make college and university tuition-free for all Canadian students.”
This will be funded by redirecting existing spending on bursaries, canceling tuition tax credits, saving the costs of administering the student loan system, and redirecting the hundreds of millions of dollars of student loan defaults written off every year. Tuition scholarships provided by colleges and universities can be used to offset other student costs.
The Green Party platform will also call for funding in federal-provincial transfers to universities to be tied to a measurable focus on student-professor contact, mentorship, policies of inclusion and tenure track hires. The Party’s Guaranteed Livable Income program will benefit young people by covering the non-tuition costs of education.
“The essential transition to a zero-carbon future presents abundant opportunities for young people to find secure employment in the green economy of the 21st century,” added Ms. May. “But students need to be able to access the necessary education and skills training now.”