Students criticize new loan repayment program

Aeroplan miles can now be used to pay off debt
Amber Nguyen/THE VARSITY
Amber Nguyen/THE VARSITY

Ontario students can now pay off their debts using Aeroplan miles in a new initiative being rolled out by the Government of Ontario, the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), and loyalty program Higher Ed Points.

Not everyone is pleased with the scope of the debt-repayment initiative however. “This program is short sighted and attempts to solve a really serious issue of mounting student debt with a Band-Aid solution,” said Rajean Hoilett, chairperson of Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario (CFS).

Aeroplan-affiliated credit cards typically offer one mile for every dollar spent. The miles are then transferred through Higher Ed Points into tuition credits in $250 increments. In order to obtain the minimum $250, a student must rack up 35,000 miles, which means spending $35,000. According to the program, students can use Aeroplan miles that friends and family have accumulated towards their credit.

The CFS criticized the program for mostly benefitting higher-income families. “ In a climate where even middle-class families face an alarming financial crunch, the largest benefits of the Higher Ed Points will be reaped by high-income families who can afford steady consumer spending,” the CFS wrote in a media release.

Dave Ansari, a third-year U of T student receiving OSAP, feels this program is unfair because it requires students to have Aeroplan miles. “Student debt should be tackled through more government subsidies for tuition cost,” said Ansari. “The government is doing this as a cop out from giving people actual cash.”

According to Hoilett, “[the program] turns an entire generation’s economic insecurity into a loyalty program that asks them to spend money they don’t have.”

Although the University of Toronto is not currently one of Higher Ed Points’ participating institutions, the program aims to have every Canadian post-secondary institution on board in the future.

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