Canadian college and university students can graduate with debts of tens of thousands of dollars. (iStock)

Students call for free post-secondary education

Many Canadian students get loans to cover their tuition and living expenses for college and university, and they often graduate with an average of between $25,000 and $30,000 of debt. The debt is even larger for those who studied management, medicine or science or for those who graduated from a masters or doctorate program.

‘Unable to start our lives’

“For a lot of Canadians, what this means is that we are unable to start our lives,” says Trina James, treasurer of the Canadian Federation of Students. “Many of us are unable to do things like purchase homes, purchase cars, get jobs within our field… and start our families.” (listen below)

Students at Morehouse College in Atlanta, U.S.A., cheered when philanthropist Robert F. Smith announced he would pay off the debts of the entire 2019 graduating class. That sparked talk about student debt in Canada. (Steve Schaefer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Federation seeks debt relief for all students

The Canadian government did pass some measures to help post-secondary students in its 2019 budget. These include lower interest rates on student loans, no interest on student debt for the first six months after graduation and some help for students with disabilities. James welcomes these, but says they are not enough.

“We need to be thinking about a framework of free tuition for all students. We’ve seen something similar to this happen in different countries like in Norway and Germany where…they’ve recognized that post-secondary is something that is a necessity for their citizens.”

Federal election, a good time to talk, says student treasurer

James notes there is a federal election coming up in Canada in October 2019 and she says it is a good time to “have conversations” about what she says is a vital issue. “Almost 70 per cent of jobs require a post-secondary education degree…Post-secondary education without financial barriers is something that is …a necessity for us to have a thriving and healthy country.”

Unlike some students in the U.S., Canadians are unlikely to have a billionaire pay off their student loans. Trina James says post-secondary education should be free.

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