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Will Linking Student Loans to Grades Help Students Avoid Too Much Debt?

18 February 2013

With so much talk of our rising household and consumer debt levels, it makes sense that the government is trying to find ways to stop Canadians from taking on so much debt. They’ve already done this through mortgage rule tightening, and through constant warnings of our ever-increasing debt levels. Now though, Tim Hudak has a plan to alleviate the debt of students. Unfortunately, it may cost them their education instead.

It was in a white policy paper that Tim Hudak made many suggestions as to how to improve the debt burden of students. Hudak, along with Conservative MPP Rob Leone, outlined these in the white paper, saying that students should be encouraged to attend applied learning programs at community colleges rather than going to the much-higher-cost universities. In exchange, Hudak also encourages community colleges to offer more three-year applied training degrees in different fields, giving students more choices.

But what the white paper leaves out is that, should this policy be implemented, it would actually take away most choices for many students.

That’s because, along with those recommendations, Hudak also wants to link government student loans to the grades post-secondary students receive. And if their grades simply don’t, well, make the grade, loans to those students would no longer be offered.

Hudak defends his position by saying that so many university students pay lots of money to attend school, but then are “back on mom and dad’s couch with no job to go to.” But is that really their fault? Are all these couch-dwellers there because their grades slid too much and now no one will hire them? Or is it because there’s simply a lack of jobs right now – especially in Ontario, where Hudak is the Leader of the PC Party.

Rob Leone does a much better job of stating what this policy would actually do. “We don’t want to reward mediocrity, we want to reward merit,” he says.

But still, is that what this policy would do? Who’s not to say that a C student would have more tenacity and passion for their job than an A student – making them the better candidate? And why should students that are struggling, but not failing, be made to pay even more consequences? After all, if a student is actually failing out of school, it would be the school and not the government that would dictate the fact that the student couldn’t return. And once that was the case, that student wouldn’t be eligible for student loans anyway, unless they found another school to attend.

And let’s not forget that this policy would clearly create a dividing line between students. Those who come from wealthier families that can pay for the education outright would be able to attend whatever university they wanted – no matter what their grades were. Those students however that come from low to medium-income households, the ones that rely on student loans the most heavily, would be left in the dark, forced to attend applied learning programs that may not be anywhere near their area of interest.

So how does this proposed policy of Hudak’s make sense? To us, it doesn’t seem to. What do you think? Do you think this is a good way to save students from debt in their future?

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