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   A Memorial University of Newfoundland Publication

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October 2, 2003

Provincial election set for Oct. 21
Education a key platform
for political parties

The major political parties have all unveiled detailed policies regarding post-secondary education in the run-up to the Oct. 21 provincial election.

Premier Roger Grimes announced the election Sept. 29, and in his speech he described the Liberal Party’s education policy. Mr. Grimes said his party would make a “major investment” to help students with debt. He said any graduate of a recognized post-secondary institution who chooses to live and work in Newfoundland and Labrador will not pay any provincial income tax for the first $100,000 they earn.

“This will provide a great head start for our young graduates right here in our own province,” he said.

Mr. Grimes said his party will also ensure greater access to the student loan program by middle-income families and increase the amount of family income that qualifies young people for a student loan.

The Liberal Party’s platform is also highlighting its record of governing the province. Premier Grimes said that as a result of his government’s agenda, “the cost of university education is the lowest in the country.” The Liberal government has provided funding to enable Memorial to reduce tuition costs by 25 per cent over the past three years.

Progressive Conservative Leader Danny Williams unveiled his party’s education policy shortly after the election was called. The PC policy manual states that a Progressive Conservative government would cover increased operating costs of Memorial University and the College of the North Atlantic, so they can freeze tuition fees and maintain the current level and quality of programs; introduce a loan remission program and needs-based grants that will make post-secondary education accessible and affordable for all qualified students; create an incentive program through a business income tax credit for employers to recruit new graduates, and encourage government, government agencies and Crown corporations to hire students.

A PC government would also review the province's post-secondary education system to “ensure that it provides the best possible instructional, research and community-oriented services for Newfoundland and Labrador in the twenty-first century and update the Memorial University Act to make sure the province's only university serves the interests of communities and people in all regions of the province.”

It would also establish an effective mechanism for regularly evaluating the financial and program decisions of Memorial University and public and private colleges, and double student representation on the university’s Board of Regents.

The NDP has not released its policy manual. However, Raj Sharan, the president of the provincial NDP, said his party’s policy on post-secondary education focuses on ensuring students have access to affordable postsecondary education, with the long-term goal of eliminating tuition fees.

He said an NDP government would reduce tuition fees gradually and institute a grants system to ensure students attending any of the province’s postsecondary institutions could do so without incurring huge debts.

“The cost of post-secondary education is more than just the actual tuition,” said Mr. Sharan. “It’s the cost of living. A lot of students have to move to attend a post-secondary institution … and we want to get a proper grant program to cover those kinds of costs.”

He said a NDP government would also increase funding to the university.

“The eventual goal is to eliminate tuition fees and (ensure) that the university doesn’t suffer in terms of operating costs.”

The NDP is also exploring ways to help students who accumulated debt while attending university in the 1990s.

The Green Party will field a candidate in St. John’s East, the district that encompasses part of Memorial University’s St. John’s campus. Steve Durant, a fourth-year political science student at Memorial and former muse editor, will run in the district for the Terra Nova Greens. St. John's East includes the Paton College Residences and Burton's Pond Apartments. The Green Party candidate had not released his policy for post-secondary education by the Gazette press deadline.



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Next issue: October 16, 2003

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