National Day of Action
Student debt is not just a student problem
“Student debt is not just a student problem” was the message behind The Canadian Federation of Students’ (CFS) latest National Day of Action (NDA) that took place across the country on Wednesday February 1, 2012.
“We believe that interest and need, not merit and ability to pay, must be the defining factors in determining access to higher education,” said Marakary Bayo, Manitoba Chairperson of the CFS. The CFS is a national organization which has been promoting the rights of Canadian students for more than 30 years.
Manitoba’s arm of the CFS has been active for 20 years, and includes student groups from post secondary institutions such as The University of Winnipeg, The University of Manitoba, Université de Saint-Boniface, and Brandon University.
Students from these schools marched to the Manitoba Legislature to demand answers from politicians on what they plan to do about student debt. – a growing problem across the country.
In September 2010, the national total of outstanding student debt surpassed the $15 billion ceiling placed by the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act. But instead of taking action, Ottawa changed the definition of “student loan” to exclude $1.5 billion in student debt. Even with this change, the ceiling is expected to be surpassed again, in 2013.
“Student debt affects students but it also infiltrates the lives of those around them,” said Lauren Bosc, president of The University of Winnipeg Student Association (UWSA). “Their children will be affected – it’s a cross generational issue.”
In a Statistics Canada study published in January 2010, it’s reported the percentage of students with at least $25,000 of loan debt increased from 17% to 27% between 1995 – 2005. In the same decade, the average amount of student debt on graduation also increased – from $15,200 to $18,800.
But the issue isn’t only student debt – it is also the ignorance of alternatives for more access to post-secondary education. The UWSA organized lead-up events to the NDA, one of which was mock funeral for accessible education.
“We wanted it to reflect both the seriousness of talking about these things, but also make it engaging,” said Bosc. The event included a procession throughout the downtown campus and speeches from members of other student groups as a way to “mourn” the death of accessible education.
One institution not involved in the student debt protest is Red River College. In an email, RRCSA president Alex Haas noted that the “RRCSA is not affiliated with CFS in any way, shape or form.”
The CFS does not take on a National Student Day of Action every year; at its semi-annual meetings, members vote on whether to mobilize on an issue.