Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article reflect those of the author and not necessarily of SFU Volunteer Services.
As you probably already know, volunteering offers many benefits. For one, it is a great way to meet friends and to network. Volunteering can also give you work-related skills. Soon, volunteering could have an added benefit — at least for post-secondary students in Alberta.
The Volunteer to be Debt Free program proposes $500 of debt be forgiven for every 100 hours spent volunteering. For 300 hours of service, $2000 of student loan may be forgiven. Negotiations are still underway, but the program, if approved, would tentatively operate within restrictions of a maximum 300 volunteer hours per year and within a $10000 limit over the course of a lifetime. It’s no surprise that the Alberta Students’ Executive Council strongly advocates for the program.
In my opinion, this news is encouraging for students, non-profits, and businesses. For students, the obvious benefit is the reduced debt. In 2010, the average tuition fee in British Columbia is $4802 — slightly below the national average but still represents a big sum of money. Student organizations have programs which try to address tuition fee hikes, but these programs are not always successful. A program such as the proposed Volunteer to be Debt Free program offers a realistic option for students.
Non-profits, who can always use more help, will benefit because the program should encourage students to volunteer. Also, businesses will indirectly benefit. Volunteering will help students acquire or improve skills, which they can then bring to their workplace. A more skilled labour force should result to higher productivity – a great benefit for businesses.
In terms of disadvantages, this program might be open to abuse by students. There’s also the risk of creating too much bureaucracy within the program. Hopefully, though, these issues are addressed as the details of the program are worked out.
Volunteer to be Debt Free seems to be a promising program; hopefully it’s a program that we’ll see implemented throughout the country. To learn more, head over to the Canadian University Press website.