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Students grade Liberals an F, NDP a C+

Post-secondary students have mixed feelings about the New Democrats' education platform, but the Liberals flunk, according to the Canadian Federation of Students-B.C.

CFS-B.C. chair Shamus Reid says in a news release that the Liberal platform offers "too little, too late."

"Students and our families are paying thousands of dollars more in tuition fees thanks to Gordon Campbell. He won't win students back with pocket change for the bus."

Since Gordon Campbell took over as Premier in 2001, average university tuition fees have skyrocketed from $2,500 to more than $5,000. The BC grants program was eliminated in 2004, and today BC ranks dead last in the provision of non-repayable student financial aid.

In an email to The Hook, Reid said many students may simply not return to school next fall because they won't be able to afford it. He cited a 2004 university survey that indicated 29 percent of students were taking fewer classes to keep down education costs.

Reid added that students are shifting to trades and short-term programs that will offer immediate employment:

Even before the recession, student debt was having an impact on the educational choices being made by students from lower-income backgrounds. Debt aversion causes these students to choose the most cost efficient programs where they perceive a greater ability to gain immediate employment that will allow them to pay off their debt quicker.

This is a concern because there are many professions that do not pay more than a middle-income and require getting your foot in the door at a lower wage, but nevertheless require post-secondary education and are vital to our economy and social fabric (eg: early childhood education, teachers.)

In another news release, Reid said students were unhappy with the NDP's failure to promise a tuition rollback:

"The NDP caucus protested tuition fee hikes each year in opposition. Yet by only committing to a tuition fee freeze, the NDP is signing off on every tuition fee increase made in the last eight years. Tuition fees have doubled since the NDP left office in 2001. Low and middle-income families need tuition fee relief."

The CFS-B.C. has launched a website, Vote, to help mobilize students and their families for the provincial election.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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