News Release Archive

Education and Culture Minister Robbie Harrison and post-secondary
student leaders from around the province met last week to review
progress and explore next steps on reducing student debt load.

"Reducing student debt load is the No. 1 priority in talks with
the federal government," said Mr. Harrison. "I wanted to inform
students about our federal discussions, and develop a strong
position with students which we can deliver to Ottawa."

Discussions are currently under way on an agreement between the
province and the federal government to address the growing debt
facing students graduating from universities and colleges.
Specifically, Nova Scotia is calling on the federal government to
implement a debt relief program similar to one in Nova Scotia.
Under the Nova Scotia program, students whose loans exceed a
minimum amount can have a portion of their provincial loan
"forgiven" if they are successful in their studies. Each year
debt relief saves Nova Scotia students millions of dollars.

Sixty per cent of a student's loan comes from the federal
government however, so a federal loan remission program is
critical to reducing total debt. Newfoundland and the western
provinces have joined Nova Scotia in stressing the need for a
federal debt relief program.

Other issues on the table include debt management strategies such
as income contingent repayment plans. Nova Scotia is wary of this
option, however, as such plans do not address the amount of a
student's debt and few details are known, said Mr. Harrison.
"This plan could commit students to repaying a loan over several
decades. We'll need to see much more detail on how such a plan
would work before considering it."

Approximately half of Nova Scotia's students borrow to finance
their education and those graduating in 1997 will have an average
debt load of $20,000. The relationship between student debt load
and other barriers to accessibility is the focus of a report
being undertaken by the Maritime Provinces Higher Education
Council. Status and key elements of the report were also
discussed at the meeting.

The Students Union of Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Component of
the Canadian Federation of Students, and the Dalhousie Students
Union have conducted their own research and are developing
recommendations. The minister and department staff will continue
to meet regularly with student leaders to share information and
collaborate on approaches to student debt and improving the Nova
Scotia loan system.

"We need to make sure the Nova Scotia position is front and
centre in our discussions with the federal government," said the
minister. "We will take what we hear from students in Nova Scotia
to the table in Ottawa and bring home a solution that works for
students and the provincial government."


Contact: Catherine MacIsaac
         Education and Culture

trp                        July 23, 1997 - 11 a.m.