College and university alumni across Canada could catch a break if the federal government acts on a private member’s motion passed unanimously in the House of Commons.
Parliament voted unanimously on Nov. 24 in support of a non-binding motion to extend the moratorium on repaying post-secondary student loans from the federal government.
Nicole Brayannis of the Canadian Federation of Students applauded the move as a measure to keep alumni afloat during a worsening coronavirus pandemic.
“Reintroducing the moratorium on student-loan payments means that students and recent graduates have a fighting chance to make it through the second wave of the pandemic,” Brayannis, the federation’s national deputy chair, said in a statement.
The motion was introduced by Edmonton Strathcona MP Heather McPherson of the New Democratic Party, who called it “good news that recent graduates needed” after being “devastated by COVID-19.
“Extending the interest-free moratorium on student loan repayments could be the difference recent graduates need to get through the winter,” McPherson said in a statement released by the party.
Parliament originally delayed repayments in March as lockdowns started coast-to-coast, but students were to resume repaying loans at the end of September. Now the moratorium has been extended to May 31, 2021.
Should the government implement the motion, it could help many students across the country.
For Mohawk College alumnus Allan Sloan, a potential extension means he can “breathe a little lighter for a little longer” as he fights to carry on amid the pandemic.
“I work two part-time jobs, and constantly wonder if I need a third,” Sloan said. “Stopping one of my monthly payments helps me out more than I could ever realize. That $200 a month could go to other things, like food, rent, savings.”
He said a loan repayment moratorium should not be only a temporary measure. “I genuinely feel that we’re at a crucial turning point, and if we don’t react and respond properly, COVID-19 lockdowns will be the least of our worries,” the journalism graduate said.
Policy experts have argued the global pandemic provides an opportunity for paradigm shifts in programs equal to those coming out of the Second World War or the Great Depression.
The pandemic has also revealed systemic social inequities, Canada’s Human Rights Commission said.
“We must be fully mindful of how this crisis is amplifying the challenges and disadvantages faced by people living on the margins of society,” HRC chief commissioner Marie-Claude Landry said.
Many post-secondary students, who often experience the impacts of inequity, agreed. A November report from Abacus Data found one in two youth between 15 and 30 believe the pandemic has only exposed “pre-existing inequalities.”
For now, the pause in repaying the price of education will allow alumni such as Sloan a chance to survive the months ahead.