January 23, 2009

Minister Hosts Second Roundtable on Student Debt

The Provincial Government is once again consulting with post-secondary students and graduates to determine the best ways to reduce student debt. On Saturday, January 24, the Honourable Joan Burke, Minister of Education, is hosting a roundtable with representatives of student groups and graduates from the province�s public and private post-secondary institutions.

"In 2007, I met with these groups in our first roundtable on post-secondary debt," said Minister Burke. "I found this meeting extremely helpful in determining the best ways our government can help to reduce student debt. It is these individuals who are facing student loans upon graduation, and I believe they are in the best position to offer informed, reasonable options for dealing with repayment plans. We are leading the nation in debt reduction programs and have every intention of maintaining this role with the help of our up-coming discussions."

Minister Burke said that in recent years, the Provincial Government has allocated over $60 million to implement a series of initiatives that have made the province�s student aid package one of the best in the country. Key initiatives include the freeze on tuition rates, the creation of up-front, needs-based, non-repayable grants, additional funding for debt reduction grants and a 2.5 per cent cut in the interest on student loans.

Expected parental contribution to a student�s post-secondary education has been reduced, meaning more people from low- and middle-income families can attend school, and the income threshold to qualify for interest relief has increased by five per cent. In total, these investments and others mean government�s investment for every post-secondary student in the province has increased by 57 per cent since 2003, from $8,971 to $14, 119.

These investments are being recognized by student groups at the national level. The national arm of the Canadian Federation of Students has acknowledged that the Williams Government is far ahead of other jurisdictions on debt reduction initiatives and spending. The Vancouver-based Coalition for Student Loan Fairness has also noted that Newfoundland and Labrador is showing the rest of Canada how to proceed to address student debt.

"Over the past five years, the number of students leaving the province to study elsewhere in Atlantic Canada has decreased by 54 per cent. Clearly, our investments aimed at reducing student debt are affecting our students� decisions to study here," said Minister Burke. "Our young people want to stay in the province, and I look forward to discussing with post-secondary students and graduates viable options that will contribute to reduced debt load."

The roundtable will take place from 9:00 a.m. � 12:00 noon, at the Glynmill Inn in Corner Brook.

Minister Burke will be available to the media immediately following the meeting.

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Media contact:

Jacquelyn Howard
Director of Communications
Department of Education
709-729-0048, 689-2624

2009 01 23                                                    9:45 a.m.

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