It might indeed be modest help, but as it affects post-secondary graduates, this financial break offered by the provincial government is aimed in the right direction. And, as first steps go, even modest can make a difference.
In discussions about the financial strain graduating students face, the massive debt accumulated by many has long been a hot topic. The Liberals announced measures this week to eliminate the interest on provincial student loans. Advanced Education Minister Kelly Regan estimated about 18,000 students could benefit each year from the break.
We’ve often heard the stories from grads, people who graduate with crushing debt and can’t find a position out of school that pays well enough to afford loan payments on top of living expenses.
Forgiving the interest portion at least relieves some of the urgency when seeking employment.
The move, naturally, will draw comparisons to other locales. Jonathan Williams, director of Students Nova Scotia, for example makes reference to the goal in Newfoundland and Labrador to freeze tuition rates and convert provincial student loans into grants.
Regan responded that the Nova Scotia plan, which will cost the province about $1.6 million a year, is what it can afford. That’s easily understandable in a province that’s severely limited in the financial breaks it can offer.
Again, directed at grads in the hopes of retaining them, it marks some progress in addressing a perennial problem. If it helps more stay in the province, there’s an eventual payoff.
NDP education critic Maureen MacDonald raises a concern on this point. She said she fears the government, with this program, might be considering cutting another one, namely, the income tax break granted to graduates who stay in the province.
MacDonald is on the money here. It wouldn’t do to cut that rebate program if it’s doing the job intended. When you give with one hand and take away with the other, it only heightens cynicism.