Quebec students stoke debt debate in Canadian colleges

Hand over your credit cards to stop spending, students battle enough debt just trying to get an education. Photo: Jules Knox

High debt has students calling for free tuition after peers in Quebec unleashed a debate on the costs of post-secondary education in B.C.

With tuition for the spring semester due in less than two months, Langara students are nervously checking their bank account balances.

Is post-secondary education too expensive?

“I don’t think that the price we pay for our education is fair,” says Adam Giesbrecht, queer liaison for Langara Students’ Union.

Giesbrecht is already more than $18,000 in debt after a year and a half of school.

“I have no idea how I’m going to pay it off in the long run,” he says. “I don’t have my family to fall back on. I live on my own. I have nobody.”

Free education could invite abuse of the system

Virginia Millsap, an economics student at Langara, has approximately $13,000 owing from student loans.

“It would be awesome if we didn’t have to pay for our education,” she says. “But if school was free I would be worried about the number of people who would go to school for the sake of not going to work. I feel like they would abuse the system.”

Like many other students, Millsap’s plan to pay off her debt relies on finding a high-paying job after graduation.

Margarita Andreeva, studying kinesiology at Langara, wants to go to medical school but she’s nervous about the number of loans she might need.

Less debt means less stress

“I definitely support free tuition,” said Andreeva. “It releases stress from students. We can focus on our education instead of worrying about part-time jobs.”

Many European countries already provide free education.

Here in Canada, for students that are feeling overwhelmed with debt, Andreeva has some advice: “Be positive, have hope, and know that we’re all going through the same thing.”

Reported by Jules Knox

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