What The Parties Are Saying They'll Do For Tuition

                  After weeks of silence on the issue of student debt, many major parties have started talking about its heavy weight, and how they can help take it off of the shoulders of young people. Considering the attention the issue of tuition has had at McMaster over the past few months, this is exciting to see being discussed during this electoral campaign period. Below, I dig deeper into each party’s promises to see what they would do for students if elected.

                  The NDP are promoting that they plan to remove interest from student loans, a commendable step in the right direction. However, according to their plan, this would not even be fully implemented until Year 7 of their party’s government, and little mathematics or details are provided which almost makes this promise seem less tangible and more like a lofty goal. Also promised by the NDP is to create almost 74 000 new grants, totaled at $250 million dollars. This is another good step in theory, but again, information as to where this money would be coming from is not provided.

                  The Liberal plan is based largely around making existing grants more accessible. Income thresholds for receiving grants will be increased (value not given), and the party will achieve this by cutting the education and textbook tax credits entirely, which they state to be poorly targeted. As well, the maximum value of Canada Student Grants (targeted at students coming from low-income situations) will be raised to $3000 for full time students, and $1800 for part time students, a fairly hefty increase.

                  The party will also change the repayment structure of loans, so that no student is required to make any payments after graduation until they are making a salary of over $25 000 dollars yearly. This might sound better than it actually is – crunching out the numbers (48 weeks a year at 40 hours a week), your salary would have to be under $13.02 for you to get this benefit. Considering that minimum wage has just again increased, it is difficult to project the value of the benefit students would receive.  

                  The Conservative Party’s platform does not exactly have a plan for tuition, per se. What they do want to implement is an increase to the government’s matched-funding to RESP’s (Registered Education Savings Plan). The Conservatives plan to increase matched contributions of the government to the first $500 invested in an RESP from 10% to 20% if your family’s net income is over $87 907, and from 20% to 40% if it is below. This is known as the “Additional Canadian Education Savings Grant” (A-CESG). The regular CESG, which matches contributions to RESP’s at 20%, up to a value of $2500, will not be changed. While definitely beneficial to those future students with an RESP, the policy improvement does nothing for families too poor to afford making contributions/paying to open the account or that don’t know about them – which, is, awkwardly enough, the target demographic for this sort of plan. It’s also worth noting that this change does not help current students either.   

                  Meanwhile, the Green Party of Canada campaigns on a promise of free tuition for all. By 2020, all post-secondary education and skills training in Canada will be cost-free.  Not just this, but student debt of current students will be capped at $10 000, which is also a pretty significant promise – speaking for myself, my own debt has already climbed much higher than this target cut-off, and there is a lot I could do with the extra savings.  

                  Unfortunately, making tuition free is not as easy as it seems. The Green Party doesn’t seem to think it important to mention on their website exactly where all this money to make tuition free and eliminate a good chunk of student debt will be coming from, but the answer isn’t hard to guess. Whilst many European countries like Germany, Finland, and several more have the free-tuition policy, it’s also true that their tax rates are not quite like ours. While our HST already irritates the masses at a measly 13%, imagine if it jumped to 19%, which is the current value of sales tax in Germany. Yikes. While saving on tuition, this would certainly make the costs of living significantly more difficult for many students.

 

-- Katie Pita

 

If you’re looking for more information, or want to read the party platforms for yourself, check out the links below:

Conservative Platform: http://www.conservative.ca/prime-minister-harper-announces-further-support-for-families-saving-for-their-childrens-education-2/

Green Platform: http://www.greenparty.ca/en/platform/sustainable-economy

Liberal Platform: https://www.liberal.ca/realchange/post-secondary-education/

NDP Platform: http://www.ndp.ca/news/college-university-to-be-more-affordable-under-ndp

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