Student debt bankrupting a generation
In 2006, Nereid Lake was a single mom with an undergraduate degree in French linguistics from Simon Fraser University and well on her way to a master’s degree in linguistics when Canada Student Loans informed her she had exceeded the lifetime lending limit of the federal program and would have to leave university — without her degree.
At the time, she had accumulated about $60,000 in student loans.
“Even though I had an armload of academic awards, I was forced to leave,” she says. “My aspiration was to work in the field of voice recognition cognitive science, getting computers to understand human language. Instead I had to take the first job I could, as a low-earning court clerk. Now I’m nearly 40 just barely making ends meet and still owe more than $50,000 in student debt. I naively thought student loans would be the great equalizer. Instead I’ve plunged into a student debt nightmare.”
Ms. Lake is not alone. Nearly two million Canadians have student loans. That debt is worth about $20-billion and includes federal and provincial government loans and personal debt in the form of credit cards, family loans and lines of credit all used to finance post-secondary education. And that number is only set to grow as student loans owed to the government of Canada alone increase by $1.2-million a day. At the same time, the amount of unrecoverable student loan debt now sits at $149.5-million.