Federal briefing says that student debt is manageable, but not everyone is convinced

March 24, 2015

Student debt is not as bad as many Canadians believe, at least according to a presentation prepared in November, 2014 for then-Minister of Employment and Social Development Canada Jason Kenney. The internal presentation, obtained by the Toronto Star, states that "a narrative has been emerging that student debt in Canada is a growing concern and may be unsustainable," and suggests that rising tuition fees, vocal stakeholders, and stories from the US have led to increased concern. However, the brief goes on to say that "despite mounting attention to the issue, debt levels appear to be manageable for the vast majority of Canadian students." The presentation says that grants, federal repayment assistance plans, and increased savings have kept debt levels "largely stable." However, many of those who are concerned about student debt aren't convinced by the figures quoted in the report. Dan Harris, PSE critic for the federal NDP, said that the federal government writes off millions in uncollected debt each year and that the total level of debt has not decreased, while David Robinson, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), says that the statistics cited in the report do not account for private debt. The report does acknowledge that "this is an issue that demands continued attention" and that "as the economy remains weaker ... the capacity of graduates to repay their loans quickly has likely diminished." Toronto Star