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Granting students a way to cut debt

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Student debt keeps rising. The average post-secondary student in B.C. with a student loan now graduates with $35,000 in debt.

In an attempt to call attention to the severity of student debt, the UFV faculty and staff association is giving away $1,000 to 30 current or former UFV students — whoever has the most student debt.

The money will be given away through their contest, “30 drops out of the bucket.”

Sean Parkinson, president of the faculty and staff association, helped organize the contest.

“As many people as possible can apply, but what we’ll do is for the sort the applicants and the 30 applicants with the most debt will get $1,000 each,” said Parkinson.

Once the contest closes next week, all the applications will be looked at, but only for how much debt they have. The applications don’t require any story or essay, only that at least one course has been taken at UFV since 2005 and proof of student debt is provided.

The money for the contest will come from the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators.

The program is based off a similar campaign that was done last year at Okanagan college — where it was found that some had debt well over $60,000.

Although the campaign will give away the $30,000, its other purpose is to increase awareness about the high costs of student debt.

“Giving the money is the hook. What I really want is people just to talk about this,” said Parkinson.

Government funding of post-secondary education has been declining, Parkinson said. When UCFV became a university in 2008, 28 per cent of the operating budget came from students. Now, students pay about 40 per cent of the operating budget.

The cost burden students face continues to grow as education becomes increasingly more important.

“Tuition has gone from $2,500 to $5,500 and is 220 per cent more now, while minimum wage isn’t 220 per cent more,” Parkinson said. “It takes a lot more hours at a bad job to pay for a course today than it did 15 years ago.”

After the winner is announced April 10, a spreadsheet of all the debt will be published to show that total debt of those who entered the contest.

“I think the financial burden that students face today, it’s just untenable to leave with that kind of debt,” Parkinson said. “I’ve got strong personal feelings but I don’t know how young people get a leg up in life when you’ve got that big anchor around your neck.”

The contest closes April 6, applications can be sent to FSA.Info@ufv.ca. More information can be found here.

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