News Release Archive

EDUCATION/CULTURE--Minister, Students Work Toward Debt Reduction
Students are helping to shape and deliver Nova Scotia's proposals
to Ottawa on reducing student debt, Education and Culture
Minister Robbie Harrison said today.

The next in a series of meetings is scheduled for Nov. 12, when
Mr. Harrison and students will review progress to date and
prepare for a national student assistance workshop in Ottawa on
Nov. 17.

"Students have shaped the details of Nova Scotia's position since
Day 1," Mr. Harrison said. "They've told us loud and clear:
reducing student debt is the No. 1 priority. We've worked with
Ottawa for months on this issue, and we were the only province to
invite students to our meeting with federal officials as part of
their national consultations on Canada Student Loan reform.

"Now premiers and education ministers across the country are
joining their voices to the call, moving this Nova Scotia
priority up on the national agenda."

Nova Scotia is pushing Ottawa to establish a federal loan
forgiveness program similar to the provincial loan forgiveness
program. This would go a long way to resolve the debt load issue. 

Mr. Harrison said Nova Scotia is putting more than $5 million
back into the hands of students to date this year. "That's an
average of about $1,725 per eligible student. Over a four-year
program, this kind of return will reduce student debt to the tune
of about $7,000 --representing 70 per cent of the provincial
portion of a student's loan," the minister said.

"This is a big help for students, and we're asking the federal
government to get on board."

Mr. Harrison is encouraged by recent federal initiatives and
statements by Pierre Pettigrew, Minister of Human Resources
Development, and Finance Minister Paul Martin. Plans for a
Canadian Millennium Scholarship Fund and Special Opportunities
Grants for students with dependents have been announced. As well,
the last federal budget increased targeted tax relief for a
typical student by one-third, gave students more time to find
work before beginning to repay their loans, and made the
Registered Education Savings Plan more attractive and flexible
for parents.

"These are encouraging steps, but I want to echo Minister
Martin's comments that student debt load is a terrible problem
--more can and must be done," Mr. Harrison said. "Our students
say they need help now. They need a comprehensive package that
helps all students with high debt loads. I'm pleased federal
ministers and officials are now meeting with students across
Canada to hear this message first-hand."

For example, some students have presented an income-related
repayment proposal that includes deferred grants, but broad
support for this proposal will likely depend upon the degree to
which the model reduces student debt immediately. Other students
favour more up-front grants. All items can be discussed at the
Nov. 12 meeting.

Approximately half of Nova Scotia students borrow to finance
their education. Those who graduate this year will have an
average debt of about $20,000.


Contact: Donna MacDonald
         Education and Culture

ngr                   Oct. 21, 1997              2:30 pm