Students, the PMO might ‘do ya a Duffy’ and pay off your debt #DoYaADuffy #BCpoli

by Stephen Petrina on June 1, 2013

With the Office of the Prime Minister (PMO) open to ‘do ya a Duffy’, how about paying off the loans bankrupting a generation? If you can write a $90,000 cheque, no questions asked (NQA) to Mike Duffy to pay off questionable housing expenses, surely you can write cheques for the debt-burdened students’ loans, NQA. Understandably, when the PMO sets out to ‘do ya a Duffy’, a cheque leaves a trail, so just dole out the newly minted $90,000 bills—you’d go from zero to hero and, unlike the NQA case of Mike Duffy’s payout, there’d be no need to request that student debtors remain silent! So how about it PMO, NQA?

Nereid Lake documenting her $60,000 student loan debt. Photo by Steve Bosch.

Although it is silly to present facts for the PMO to ‘do ya a Duffy’, there are nonetheless a few for the record. Debt is the biggest stressor for students, not academic studies, with an average at about $28,000 per undergraduate student and easily about $20,000 on top of undergraduate debt load per PhD student (note that PhD–“piled higher and deeper” now refers to the crap side of debt and not the crap side of knowledge). With an average of $15,000 per year for an undergraduate education in Canada, and federal loans up to $12,000 per year and provincial up to about $6,000, debt adds up quickly. Most students will report that graduate studies requires that this level of government or private debt continues apace for the advanced degrees.

Student protests have been intense, especially in Quebec, as most universities in Canada raise tuition fees annually. In British Columbia and Nova Scotia, for example, budgets are balanced on the backs of students. “The real cost of balancing the budget—even if we accept this thoroughly discredited [Liberal] government’s assumptions—is being paid out of the pockets of working families, students and those least able to afford higher fees and service charges,” the CUPE BC Secretary-Treasurer recently observed.

In BC, universities are given an annual green light to raise tuition 2%. And what do they do? What are the effects? As the Canadian Federation of Students reminds us: “Recent studies reveal the effects of high tuition fees on access to post-secondary education for students from low- and middle-income backgrounds. Statistics Canada reports that students from low-income families are less than half as likely to participate in university than those from high-income families.” For the graduate students, “high levels of debt are the inevitable result of massive fee hikes and the deregulation of tuition fees in graduate programs,” says the National Graduate Caucus of the CFS. And with the economy tanking and jobs for youth descending to low tide, it is “under/grad to unemployed” and underemployed (about 40% of the few jobs for the grads do not require a baccalaureate). So there you have it, with laws preventing students from declaring bankruptcy, student debt is nevertheless bankrupting a generation.