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Canadian Learning Passport – Liberal Election Announcement

For more than a year I worked with volunteers and also delivered Junior Achievement programs to local high school students to facilitate the “Economics for Success” program. It teaches grade nine students many lifelong lessons. They consider their skills, talents, values; dream careers; budget; practise interview skills and even get a job with a salary. They certainly learn the value of a post-secondary education from the occupations provided as the incomes are much higher than entry-level positions.

I grew up in a rural community, wanting to pursue opportunities that were not available to my parents. I always dreamed of working in Europe and exploring parts unknown. Little did I know that in 2007 these dreams would become a reality as I lived and worked in Europe, travelling to 25 countries. My parents supported my sister and I. They believed that they should do all they could to assist us through a post-secondary education. At the age of 13 I lost my father (the breadwinner), this left my mother with  a significant challenge of being a single parent without meaningful employment, yet still wanting to provide for her child. 

I graduated high school like many students, faced with a tough decisions of whether to enter the workforce, obtain a post-secondary education, or neither. I was terrified of the high debt load I would accumulate having to move away from my rural community to live in the city, pay rent, utilities, groceries, tuition, books and other living costs. It is a scary reality. Many of my peers also choose this route, while others did not – a limiting factor could be the debt burden upon graduation. Five years in the workplace, gives them valuable work experience, seniority and income without the debt. This sounds wonderful, but most of these individuals have to move away from their friends and family.

How can a student graduating with $50,000 in debt after 5 years of post-secondary get ahead? Students are crippled with debt repayment that could range in $400-600 a month for a period of 9 years. How can one afford a car? rent? a home? or support a family? I opted to work part-time jobs throughout the school year and work multiple jobs during the four-month summer break.

Post-secondary education costs must be reduced to ensure that Canadian debt load is more affordable. The Provincial Government of Newfoundland & Labrador has made great strides in making education more affordable. They have continued a tuition freeze. Memorial University has the second-lowest tuition in the country, with some universities in Quebec posting nominally lower rates. Moreover, the provincial government has implemented up-front grants as part of the Students Loan Program, reduces the NL portion of the  student loan debt for those completing their program within the appropriate timeframe and eliminating the interest on the NL portion of the student loan. The Provincial Government should be commended for investing in our education.

It is time for the Canadian Government to take a similar approach – wake up and smell the coffee. It appears that Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff‘s election announcement of the Canadian Learning Passport is a step in the right direction to make post-secondary education more affordable for all Canadians which promised $1,000 per year for up to 4 years for all Canadians and $1,500 for individuals from low-income families (up to $6,000). The program is estimated to invest $1 billion annually in the future generations. This investment will have tremendous long-term benefits for all Canada.

The Canadian economy needs to continue to produce educated and innovative individuals to further stimulate new economic growth for the future. I would like to be informed of the stance relating to education policy from other major political parties.

I have paid the price of a post-secondary education, and regard the education as worth every penny.  I certainly encourage more youth to choose to obtain a post-secondary education and to also get out and vote. The 18-29 demographic, historically yields low-voter turnout. We need to stand up and be connected and have a stronger voice for matters that affect Canadian families.

 Live Rural NL 0

Christopher Mitchelmore

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