B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson’s opposition to interest-free B.C. student loans is sparking an online backlash similar to his recent remarks about renting being a “fun” time of transition.
Wilkinson questions the move in the NDP government’s recent budget to eliminate interest from the B.C. portion of student loans, arguing that it may encourage young people to take on more debt than they can handle. He said financing is important for students, but removing interest from loans is “probably not the right way to go about it.
“My own experience is running into students who have $80,000 in student debt who haven’t completed their degree,” said Wilkinson, referring to his time as advanced education minister in the Christy Clark government.
“I paid tens of thousands of student loans myself to get through medical school, and student loans are a very important part of our education system,” said Wilkinson, who trained as a doctor in Alberta before obtaining a law degree in Britain as a Rhodes scholar. “The concern with the NDP taking the interest off them completely is that students in their early years may get a little carried away with how much they’re borrowing. If there’s no interest whatsoever, then students are likely to borrow more.”
NDP MLA Ravi Kahlon posted an audio clip on his Facebook page of similar comments by Wilkinson on RedFM radio in Surrey, where he questioned whether students would ever pay back debt if interest wasn’t accumulating.
“That’s like saying nobody pays back zero-interest loans on cars,” said one commenter.
Others referred to Wilkinson’s recent comments on renting being a “wacky” and “fun” time for young people, for which he later apologized, saying he was referring to his own experience in his 20s.
Federally sponsored student loans are interest-free for the first six months after graduating, after which interest applies at above the prime rate.