Seeking changes to student loans

April 3, 2008

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By Scott Byers

Julian Benedict is pushing for changes to Canada’s student loan system as a member of the Coalition for Student Loan Fairness, a group he helped found.

“We think the system treats the student loan as a benefit to the individual, not society,” says Benedict, a program assistant with SFU’s seniors program.

“For example, interest rates for student loans in Canada are among the highest in the industrialized world, so you can imagine the kind of financial stress this puts on people.”

He says many countries charge no interest on student loans during the repayment period. And, he notes, current interest rates charged during repayment are approximately 4.5-per-cent higher than what the government pays to borrow the funds.

The result: an extra $550 million in interest revenue for the federal government—a windfall that Benedict says is built on the backs of cash-strapped, ex-student borrowers.

Benedict’s coalition is lobbying the federal and provincial governments to implement interest-rate cuts, improve access to debt-reduction programs and create an impartial student-loans ombudsperson. “The objective,” he says, “is a fair and balanced system that treats borrowers with respect. I believe our plan can get us there.”

Benedict credits SFU for providing him with a dynamic and supportive environment in which to develop as a student, staff member and advocate.
“I think this is a place where people can grow intellectually,” he says, “and be stimulated by challenges to work in all sorts of different areas.”

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