Students need loan advocacy

The debate over student loans and tuition is not new and the issue often sounds so large and complicated that when undergrads, prospective students and parents hear about it, their instinct is to simply be passive.

Well parents, with university and college admission letters in the mail, those of you planning on sending your children to school on loans in the coming year have some serious things to think about.

This isn’t just a student issue anymore. It’s part of your responsibility to not only know the system’s flaws, but also to make sure your kids know what’s in store for them. And as voters, you have the power to let the government know that you won’t stand by and let the current broken system continue.

Rather than dealing with the entire issue all at once though, I believe it would be more effective to tackle one issue at a time.

And the foremost issue is transparency.

The student loans program needs an ombudsperson as an independent branch with the power to act in the interests of the students. This would not only have the immediate effect of actively assisting students in need, but would also clarify in terms of what is required of them once they’ve completed their studies.

An ombudsperson would find and fix many of the systemic problems plaguing loan borrowers.

The difficulties of taking part in the student loan program are sometimes impossible to imagine without having been part of the system. But take as an example the findings of a government funded survey on the satisfaction of borrowers of the Canadian Student Loans Program.

Between 2006 and 2007, this survey found that one in five students did not know how much they owed in loans, and nearly half did not know how much time they had to repay them.

Yet with all of this confusion, the government has been satisfied with allocating a few phone operators or referring students back to their own financial aid offices.

With a largely obscure loans system, however, these financial aid offices may not have the proper resources to deal with each individual problem.

Even with the long-standing call for an ombudsperson from dozens of students right organizations, the government once again ignored it in the last budget

Now is the time to think about how you want the government to treat your children’s education. While the relief of academic admission and loans approval may feel good now, students and parents alike have to think about what will happen four years down the road when debt repayments begin.

After all, the experience we get from a post-secondary education shouldn’t be that of a ruined credit rating or worse, bankruptcy.

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Posted: Mar 18 2008 10:17 pm
Filed under: Opinion