Andrew Wilkinson is not having a good week
Speaking in a radio interview on Vancouver’s RedFM, the BC Liberal leader said he does not trust twenty-somethings to pay back their student loans now that the provincial government has scrapped sky-high interest charges on student loans in British Columbia.
“I think we have to be a little bit concerned that any loan that carries no interest encourages people to go into a lot of debt,” Wilkinson said.
“And students may get carried away with debt.”
Wilkinson offered an anecdote about students who are “$80,000 in debt” even though they’re “23-years-old.”
“That’s the concern we have with interest free loans,” Wilkinson said. “Why wouldn’t you just borrow as much as you possibly can? And then why would you ever pay it back?”
The BC government announced in the provincial budget last month that interest on new and existing student loans would be scrapped. BC joins Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in charging no interest on student loans.
The BC Federation of Students applauded the government’s move, stating: “this change will not only help current and future students, but also those who have completed their studies and are paying back loans.”
While Wilkinson was Minister of Advanced Education in the former BC Liberal government, tuition revenues increased 350% between 2002 and 2017. Meanwhile, students were left paying some of the highest interest rates and highest amounts of debt in Canada.
According to the BC Federation of Students, student debt in BC has risen 88% since 1999. Additionally, data from Statistics Canada indicates the average debt for a BC student graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 2010 was $32,300 – around 20% higher than the national average.