Bearing the burden

I'm absolutely overjoyed by the fact this province has moved towards making tuition free for low-income families.

But where I find myself not so overjoyed is the blatant disregard in offering any assistance to current and graduated students who are still overburdened with large loans-- ones that the provincial government is now admitting made it a barrier and difficult for those who had lower-incomes to attend post-secondary education-- without any form of addressing it.

For some context, my family has fit the classification as low-income for the duration of my life; this has been especially true for the time I've been enrolled in post-secondary education at McMaster University.

I can name several friends who come from similar socioeconomic backgrounds who were weary of taking higher education because they simply could not afford it. Some of them decided not to because of it.

That's because the idea of taking on a loan that would be more money than they earn in a year was a pill that was too hard for them to swallow. It almost was for me, too. But I made the challenging decision to enroll and muster through what I knew would be a challenging debt-load for me to manage anyway, for the chance to help increase the socioeconomic status of my family. I'm now in my final term here at McMaster, and I wouldn't trade up the education and experiences I've had here for anything. But I can't help but reflect on the fact that I know I'm not alone in the reality I will be struggling with this student debt for some years to come. Like myself, there are many low-income students-- current or graduating-- that have debt loads they will not easily be able to repay-- many will struggle with it for extended periods of time and it will impact their quality of life.

And it's with that perspective that I look at the budget that the provincial Liberals announced today and I applaud the much needed further socialization of our post-secondary education model to one that does not allow for economic differences to dictate the attainability of education-- but I also lament the fact that it does absolutely nothing for those students that decided to persevere through a system that was flawed and inaccessible to them.

I wish that this budget had done more than acknowledge that it was a problem moving forward and had found a way to also alleviate the struggle that current students who are from low-income families are facing as a result of their past policies.

I know this perhaps seems like being negative in the face of great news; but it's not that. I'm overjoyed. I'm also just living the reality that many others are too: we will burden the failures of your past policies for many more years to come