UFV welcomed Melanie Mark, minister of advanced education, skills and training, last Friday, March 15. Her visit was to celebrate a change for students in the wake of the Feb. 19 announcement by Carole James, minister of finance and deputy premier, that there would no longer be interest on student loans granted by the B.C. government.
This announcement marks a commitment by the B.C. government to help people gain access to post-secondary institutions, according to Mark, and is part of the B.C. NDP government’s Budget 2019 plan. One of the goals of this year’s budget is to help communities gain access to further education, and to many at UFV it could help remove some of the financial stress related to tuition fees.
“Announcing that interest would be free on B.C. student loans was a major call to action from students,” said Mark. “It’s too bad it took this long. The opposition who were in government for 16 years didn’t take action when they could have.”
Back in August the NDP government announced a reduction by 2.5 per cent to prime for B.C. student loans — an $11 million investment in B.C. students.
“[This] was a key mandate item from the premier [John Horgan] to me to take action on,” Mark said.
This call to action is part of B.C.’s NDP Budget 2019 plan to make education more accessible. Mark said other changes included making adult basic education free again, as well as investing in student housing. Mark also said the B.C. government plans to invest in tech seats, early childhood education, trades, and trades equipment.
“Government is all about your values … we believe in addressing affordability,” Mark said. “We want people to have good family-supporting jobs, and we want people to be able to count on those services that matter most. Here at UFV, post-secondary education matters to people and when we invest in people the return in investment is healthier, stronger communities.”
This exciting announcement means a burden will be lifted off the shoulders of many students, according to the presenters at the event. UFV President Joanne MacLean joined Mark on stage with UFV student union president Gurvir Gill, as students set off streamers in celebration of this change. This announcement means students in British Columbia will be able to attend post-secondary institutions without the financial burden of accumulating interest on their B.C. granted loans.
Mark said one of the next steps in post-secondary education for the B.C. government will be to make funding more accessible for students, something brought to the government’s attention by the lobbying of student unions.
“A lot of the student unions come to the legislature. They have their lobby days, they meet with MLA’s, and they have made it very clear to me as minister, as well as MLAs, that they want upfront grants,” Mark said. “Our ministry already contributes millions of dollars in student aid and student financial assistance. What we are looking at is streamlining those resources.”
During the ceremony, Mark expressed the desire to make post-secondary destinations for more people looking to gain formal education and training. With affordability in mind, Mark said, schools like UFV offer a solution to some of the housing issues by allowing students to stay close to home, and still attend post-secondary.
“There are 900,000 jobs that are going to be available in the next 10 years and 77 per cent of those jobs are going to require students to have some level of post-secondary experience and training, so I feel that it’s incumbent upon me as minister to make sure that we are investing in people to create those opportunities,” Mark said.
Image: The Cascade