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Mixed reaction for NDP post-secondary promises

The B.C. New Democratic Party’s commitment to restore student grants and freeze tuition is welcomed by student advocates, though they say it doesn’t go far enough.

“It’s a mixed review for students,” said Shamus Reid, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students-British Columbia.

“We are encouraged that some of the investments are going to make education more affordable,” he said. “But a four-year freeze on tuition fees is nowhere near enough.”

The major post-secondary commitments released in yesterday’s NDP platform include:

Freeze tuition rates and provide a rebate to institutions for lower tuition revenues

Restore needs-based student grants

Cut interest rates on student loans

At yesterday’s release of the platform, NDP leader Carole James said she hoped to have the legislation in place that would allow for the tuition freeze to begin next January.

The CFS-BC welcomes the return of the grants programs and the freeze, Reid said, but was hoping for a reduction in tuition.

“We’re worried that by just freezing tuition fees that it’s signing off onto the Gordon Campbell tuition fee increases,” he said.

“I think we were surprised given that the (NDP) Opposition has opposed these tuition hikes over the past eight years.”

According to the CFS, tuition fees have doubled since the B.C. Liberals took power in 2001.

Reid said he was encouraged by the Green Party of BC platform, which calls for a 20 per cent decrease of tuition fees over four years to be offset with an increase in government grants to institutions to make up for reduced tuition revenue.

“Hopefully that’s going to put some pressure on the other parties,” he said.

Students are now anticipating the post-secondary election promises from the B.C. Liberals.

“There’s a bit of a higher responsibility for the Liberals to reverse the damage they have created,” Reid said.

The CFS-BC is a non-partisan student organization that represents 150,000 college and university students across the province.

The group is trying to mobilize the student vote for the May 12 election through its Vote Education campaign.

Garrett Zehr reports for The Hook.

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