Ontario NDP launched website highlighting student debt

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath is surrounded by young people with large students debts, as the party launches a new website to highlight the crisis of student loans in the province.

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath launched a website for students both past and present in an effort to raise awareness of the increase in student debt, according to a press release.

The website, which launched Nov. 7, is aimed at empowering young people by allowing them to share their story on how student debt is affecting their lives.

The website is a tool that goes hand-in-hand with the NDP’s continued promise of removing the interest from Ontario student loans, if the party forms government in 2018.

“This is a first step in addressing the crisis of student debt in Ontario and it is an important one,” Horwath said at a press conference on Nov. 7. “Seemingly insurmountable student debt delays important life milestones for young people such as buying a car, owning a home, starting a family or starting a business. This makes student debt not only a burden for those who carry it, but on the provincial economy as a whole.”

Horwath said student debt can feel like an anchor, leaving students stuck in their parents’ home or with dead end jobs, struggling to repay their student loans.

“The government should not be making profit off the fact that students in Ontario need to take out massive loans to afford post-secondary education. It is simply not right,” Horwath said.

According to the press release, the Canadian Federation of Students- Ontario (CFS) is also on board with the NDP’s concept of eliminating interest from loans as well as giving young people the chance to share their stories.

“Students from across Ontario welcome the NDP’s decision to remove interest on provincial student loans. This is one of the demands of our Fight the Fees campaign that saw thousands of students across the province demand immediate action to address the student debt crisis,” Rajean Hoilett, chairperson of the CFS-Ontario said in the press release. “We hope that this is the first step in realizing students vision for a high-quality system of college and university that is free of financial barriers and accessible to all.”

One of the young people surrounding Horwath at the conference was Ahmad Moussaoui.

Moussaoui created an online petition calling to end student debt. His petition has already received support from 60,000 people, though he said he didn’t know it would blow up the way it did and at that point he realized it was “a fight worth fighting”.

Darren Chapman, from the Lawrence Kinlin School of Business at Fanshawe, knows student debt has been an on-going issue and knows society is trying to help students with their loans.

Chapman is weary of the NDP’s approach and said there are other ways to frame this issue without having free tuition.

“If the students debt is increasing and the students are doing everything they can to go to school and do the work that they’re supposed to do, I’m willing to take a look at it but not necessarily make it free tuition,” Chapman said. “I’ll find a way whether we go down the finished model and possibly pay students to attend, [but] I don’t like it because then the government and society are putting the risk out first and hoping the student bites.”

What Chapman does like is the idea of students realizing that if they attend school and accumulate debt, they will be able to pay it back at an amount that is not “insurmountable” towards the student, rather it matches their ability to pay.

The Interrobang recently spoke with Horwath, where she shared more of her thoughts about the action of implementing the website.

According to Horwath, the NDP has been concerned about the situation of student debt load in Ontario for a long time now, and that problem has to do with the fact that Ontario has the highest tuition rate in the country. Horwath said the NDP is trying to get the Liberal government to do something to address the issue.

“We know that there’s a real concern out there that next year, the cap on tuition fee increases is going to come off, and we don’t have a commitment yet from the Liberals that they’re going to either implement a new cap or do something to prevent tuition fees from going up. So we’re quite worried,” Horwath said.

Horwath noted the job market is “bleak” and so the NDP’s initial idea to eliminate the interest collected on loans was followed by the website.

“We’ve launched the website because as I’ve travelled around the province talking to young people, the stories that they have are very poignant and everybody is different, and everybody has their own story to tell and one of the things we found, in some ways, is it was helpful for students to know that they’re not alone in the boat that they’re in.” Horwath said.

According to Horwath, the forum- type website is a place for students to get their stress and anxieties of student debt off their chest, was a good thing to do.

“All of these things have led us to do some work around what could the government do to lighten the load, to try to do something to reduce the burden,” Horwath said.

Rather than having statistics demonstrated the increase problem of student debt, Horwath said being able to have stories shared visually shows those who are affected by issues made by the government.

“It helps us tell that story in a broader sense as well, to be able to put a real face to some of the policy issues that we’re advocating for,” Horwath said.

For more information about contributing to the website, visit endstudentdebt.ca.