Photos and Student Loan Changes

Friday evening Toroa International House held the end-of-semester semi-formal dinner/dance here in Dunedin. It was fun, though I was tired and not particularly in the mood to be out socializing – I’m ready to take a break from Toroa for a while.

Here are some photos of the night (none of me – they must be on other people’s cameras, so I’ll get them later)

Andrew (in my suit) and Erik

Valentina, Maria, and Georgia

Tom and his little sis Anna

Niral and Andrew

Marcus (one of my flatmates), Julian, and Pilar.

And now for a rant:

I just discovered that the calculation of student loan parental contribution for this coming year will be updated. Until this year, it hasn’t changed since 1994!

Essentially, students in middle-income families (ie ME) who cannot afford university are told their parents should pay a certain percentage of the university costs. I think that’s BS and the government is out to lunch. They have now revised it so that, depending on parents’ income, their estimated contribution is lower than previously.

However, they have (in my opinion) still not adequately corrected it. In families with parental ‘discretionary’ income (a misleading term in my opinion: gross income minus income tax due) of $14,000 or more, the parents are expected to contribute 75% of the post secondary costs, with the student contributing only 25%!

The table is scaled though, so that parents with ‘discretionary’ income of $7,001-$14,000 are expected to contribute 50%. Hmm… so students whose parents earn more money should be responsible for a smaller percentage of their own education than students whose parents have less money? The government assumes that the larger loans to the poorer students even things out, but the interest payments on unpaid loans after leaving school place a lot of burden on students. Have they really calculated everything perfectly? Doubtful.

While it is not easy to pay for university, I strongly believe that as students we are responsible for our own education after high school is complete. After all, the majority of post secondary students are 18 or older and can vote, join the army, and be tried as adults in courts of law. Why shouldn’t we be considered adults? Our parents are no longer legally responsible for any of our actions, so why should they be responsible for footing our bill?

While I have a number of friends whose parents buy them cars and pay their way through university without even thinking twice, more of my friends pay their own way through university, some with help and many without help from their parents. How can we all be put into the same boat when loans are calculated? The form asks how much our parents will contribute, but the minimum parental contribution still remains a feature of the student loan assessment. I have had to borrow interest-bearing money through private sources because the government says my parents should pay for my education and has lent me little or nothing compared to my peers whose parents earn less than mine. How is this fair?

While family is important no matter how old we are, if the government says we are adults, they should treat us as adults in all respects. I agree that it is necessary to differentiate between students living without paying rent in their parents’ home during their studies, and those who incur higher expenses living elsewhere. However, in our Canadian culture, is it not expected that children be independent enough by the time they are 18 to take responsibility for their life?

There are always exceptions, of course, but I don’t see why it matters at all whether my parents even exist when it comes to student loans. I’m the one paying for university, just like my parents paid for their post secondary education. It’s my future, not theirs – the government should encourage students to pay their own way through university and work to provide more student job training and job search options for those who need help finding employment, and increase the government contribution to education.

I could rant for a long time on this topic but it’s just the same old same old, so I’ll go eat some shepherd’s pie now.