A University of Toronto alum has initiated an online petition to the House of Commons, calling for a six-month extension of federal student loan non-repayment for new graduates in 2020. This would be on top of an initial freeze on student loans and interest repayment for all borrowers that took place between March 30 to September 30.
While the federal government introduced the initial freeze as a special measure of economic relief in March in light of the impact of COVID-19, the non-repayment period overlapped with the automatic six-month repayment freeze for 2020 graduates, leaving them with no additional benefit.
As of time of publication, the petition has gathered more than 461 signatures from across the country. Petitions are certified if they reach 500 signatures, after which time they are presented to the House of Commons.
Financial challenges for new graduates
Patty Facy, a 2020 graduate from the Faculty of Information, started the petition. In an interview with The Varsity, Facy explained that the current policy in place does not grant any additional support for spring graduates, and they will be required to repay starting this month.
“The COVID-19 freeze was no doubt helpful to anyone who graduated before the pandemic started and who is still making loan repayments but unfortunately offered zero additional benefit to students who graduated DURING the pandemic,” Facy tweeted.
The COVID-19 freeze was no doubt helpful to anyone who graduated before the pandemic started and who is still making loan repayments, but unfortunately offered zero additional benefit to students who graduated DURING the pandemic, 1/3 of whom lost work placements b/c of COVID-19.
— patty facy (@pattyfacy) October 30, 2020
Facy said that her research assistant position at U of T was cancelled due to the pandemic, and she is now struggling to find another permanent job. Some of her classmates were trying the entire summer to secure a position; however, she claimed that not many jobs were posted.
Facy and her peers’ experiences are not unique. During the pandemic, over one third of Canadian postsecondary students had their job placement cancelled or delayed. In October, Canada saw a youth unemployment rate of 18.8 per cent, and the number is projected to grow to 22.6 per cent by the end of this quarter. With difficulties finding employment and repayments due soon, spring graduates are experiencing financial stress.
Support from MPs
Multiple MPs and groups showed their support. MP Daniel Blaikie — the New Democratic Party (NDP) Critic for Employment, Workforce Development & Disability Inclusion — authorized the petition to go public on November 3. MP Heather McPherson, NDP Deputy House Leader, retweeted the thread started by Facy with the hashtag “FreezeTheNSLSC” — freeze the National Student Loans Service Centre.
“The stress on students and grads is incredible this year. The government should forgive student loan interest or, at the very least, extend the interest-free deferral of payments,” McPherson commented in the tweet.
MP Matthew Green — NDP Critic for National Revenue, Public Services and Procurement — commented, calling for solidarity with students. The Canadian Federation of Students and Don’t Forget Students also supported the motion, with both calling to sign the petition.
Facy concluded in her tweet thread that students who graduated in 2020 should receive the same benefit as other borrowers and that recent graduates should not have to choose between loan repayments and their living expenses.
The Varsity has reached out to the Government of Canada for comment.