HESA

Higher Education Strategy Associates

Tag Archives: Income Contingent Loans

November 30

Comparing International Student Loan Repayment Plans

People talk a lot about student debt and the burden it places on recent graduates.  Not surprisingly, different countries come to different policy conclusions about how this burden should be dealt with.  Today’s column examines how various countries choose to deal with this issue.

What I am going to do today is compare expected loan repayments under five different student loan regimes: Canada, the US, the UK, Australian and New Zealand.  This obviously does not fully examine the issue of loan “burdens” – to do that properly would require information on average debt and average post-graduate income which I suppose I could find but can’t be bothered to do just at the moment.  But it’s still a revealing exercise.

First, a brief description of the loan repayment schemes.  Canada and the Unites States have very similar systems, in that they are technically “mortgage-style” loan systems (you pay them down as you would a home mortgage, in equal installments), but which have “income-sensitive” features to help lower-income borrowers.  In Canada, that means the Repayment Assistance Program (RAP), which requires no repayment if income is below $25,000 and restricts payments to a maximum of 20% of income over that threshold.  In the US it is called PAYE (Pay-As-You-Earn) or REPAYE (don’t ask), which requires no payment if “adjusted gross income” (meaning income minus certain allowable deductions, roughly equivalent to line 260 on a Canadian tax form,) is less than 150% of the poverty line, which in practice means US$17,820 for a single individual.  Repayments are restricted to 10% of income above that level.  In both countries what that means is that repayment is directly tied to income until the point where payments rise above what they would be on a mortgage-style arrangement, at which point borrowers switch into the mortgage system.

The other three systems are income-contingent, meaning repayment is geared exclusively to income regardless of the size of the outstanding debt.  In the UK, the repayment threshold is £21,000 and borrowers repay 9% of their income above this level.  In New Zealand, the repayment threshold is NZ$19,084, and borrowers repay 12% of their income above this level.  Australia is more complicated: borrowers pay nothing until income passes $54,869, but then one pays an escalating percentage, starting at 4%, of one’s entire income (not just the bit above the threshold) as income rises above this.  For those interested, the contributions table is here.

For this comparison, I assume that the Canadian and American subjects each have outstanding loans of $25,000 (in local currency) which are eligible for income-based repayment. As noted above, size of debt is irrelevant for the other three examples.  I have converted everything into Canadian dollars at purchasing power parity using the July 2016 Big Mac Index (C$1=NZ$1=A$.958=$US.84=£.496).

With all that out of the way, Figure 1 shows how much student loan borrowers are expected to repay per month under each of the five systems.

 Figure 1: Required Monthly Repayment on Student Loans, by Income Level, in C$ at PPP, Selected Countries

ottsyd-20161130-1

The essential natures of each country’s program can be seen in this graph.  Canada and the US start out as upwardly-sloping lines but then plateau, which reflects their common nature as a blend of income-based and mortgage-style lending.  Payments in the US system rise more gently because of the different repayment maximum (10% vs 20%) and plateau at a lower level because of lower interest rates.  The New Zealand and UK patterns are simple upwardly-sloping curves.  Australia’s curve is notable not just because it is at zero for a long period but also because it jumps quickly at the point of the threshold.  In the social science literature, this is what they call a “step-function”, and it’s not a great idea because it means at the point of the threshold, individuals actually become significantly worse off (in this case, by $193 per month) by earning one extra dollar.

At low levels of borrower income, Canada, the United States and New Zealand all look quite similar in that they require borrowers to begin repayment at much lower levels of income ($20-25,000) than in either the UK ($43,000) or Australia ($57,000).  At income levels between $20,000 and $34,000, New Zealand demands the highest levels of repayment.  Between $34,000 and $50,000 (the part of the income curve where most recent graduates can be found), Canada has the highest repayment requirements; above $50,000 it’s New Zealand again. Between $25,000 and $75,000 it is definitely advantageous to be in Australia or the UK as these have the lowest payments.  However, by $80,000 repayments in the US system are the lowest and if we were to extend the chart out to $85,000 then we would see repayments in Australia and the UK exceed the Canadian level.

A final point: the Canadian system imposes the highest costs on students in precisely the income-range where most recent graduates fall.  We could do more for them here; specifically, if we reduced the maximum repayment rate to 15% from 20%, we would kink the curve in such a way that monthly repayments would never be higher than they are in New Zealand.  Something to think about for the next budget, perhaps.

 

October 19

The Yale Tuition Postponement Option

If you pay attention to student assistance, you know about income-contingent loans.  And if you’ve heard about income-contingent loans, you probably know that the first national scheme debuted in Australia back in the late 1980s.  You might even know that the first theoretical exploration of income-contingent loans was made by Milton Friedman back in the 1950s (actually, he was talking more about human-capital contracts, but close enough.  And you might occasionally wonder: why did it take 30 years to go from idea to implementation?  Well, the answer is that it didn’t: there was an intermediate stage in which a couple of universities tried to run their own income-contingent loan programs.

The year is 1971. Private 4-year universities were probably at their lowest-ever ebb relative to the big public flagships: massive amounts of public money had been pouring into public universities while privates had yet to really perfect their practice of extracting mega-millions from loaded donors.  But Inflation is starting to rise in America as a result of a decade worth of a guns AND butter fiscal policy.  And so schools like Yale began to think about raising tuition to meet higher costs and regain their place at the top of the academic dog-heap.

Enter economist James Tobin – a man who within a decade would win a Nobel Prize and is today mostly known for his advocacy of a beloved-of-the-left tax on financial transactions (the eponymous “Tobin Tax”).  Room and board at Yale College at the time was $3,900 (yes, I know, I know).  The university wanted to raise fees by about $1500 over the next five years, and so President Kingman Brewster (the model for Walden University’s President King in the comic strip Doonesbury) asked Tobin to come up with a scheme that would allow the institution raise said money without putting too much stress on students.

The result was something called the Yale Tuition Postponement Option.  Students could choose to defer part of their tuition (the part that came on top of the pre-1971 $3,900) until after graduation.  Repayment was a function of both loan balance and income: borrowers were required to repay 0.4% of their income for every $1,000 of tuition postponed (a minimum payment of $29/month was set).  Repayments could take as long as 35 years although it was expected to take less time than that.

There was a catch, though.  Loan programs lose money through defaults.  These either have to be made up through subsidy (which is what happens in most government student loan programs) or mutual insurance among borrowers.  Yale had no intention of subsidizing these loans, and so went the latter route.  These were therefore in effect group loans – you kept paying until your entire borrowing cohort had repaid.  You could escape this only by paying 150% of your initial loan and accrued interest.

You can imagine how this went.  A lot of students borrowed, but there was a fair bit of adverse selection (people who worried about their incomes opted-in, people who thought they would earn a lot opted-out).   And as time went on, a lot of graduates groused about subsidizing their less-successful classmates.  The program was phased out in 1977-78 because federal student aid was becoming more generous and because the university was starting to twig to both the problem of adverse-selection program and the problem of keeping in contact with graduates and getting them to voluntarily disclose their incomes.  Eventually, amidst rising alumni discontent, the program was wound up in 2001 and outstanding debts assumed by the University (which by this time could easily afford to do so).

The failure of the Yale Plan was certainly one reason why people were scared off income-contingency for another decade or so, until a reformist Australian government picked up the idea again in the late 1980s.  But from a policy perspective it was not a total loss.  One Yale student who enrolled in the program – fellow by the name of Clinton – thought it was a great idea.    He made it a center-piece of his 1992 election campaign, and an income-contingent tuition option was in place by 1994.  That specific policy never took off, but most of the income-based repayment plans (which are now used by 40% of all borrowers) owe their start to this program.

So, a failure for Yale perhaps.  But a long-term win for American students.

March 03

Income-Contingent Loans (Repaid Through the Tax System)

Every once in awhile, someone important says that what Canada/America really needs are income-contingent loans.  I usually reply, “we have income-contingent loans in Canada/America, that’s what the Repayment Assistance Program/Income Based Repayment program does”. To which the rejoinder is “no, no, that’s not income-contingent, what I mean by income-contingent is recovery of the loan is done automatically through the tax system, so you don’t run into all these messy issues around borrowers in repayment having not signed up for things”.

At this juncture, I could point out that the size of the loan payment and its method of recovery aren’t the same thing (I wrote a monograph about this about a decade ago), but I usually just keep my mouth shut because, really, my interlocutors have a point.  RAP in Canada and IBR in the US would both be much better programs if borrowers in trouble automatically received relief, instead of going through the tedious application/income verification process they do now, and the easiest way to achieve this would be to run repayment through the tax system, as they do in Australia, the UK, and New Zealand.

So why don’t we?

The New America Foundation investigated this question in a recent paper, and enumerated a number of challenges in moving to a tax collection system.  One of these reasons is specific to the US (they tax families not individuals, so setting the tax rate on an individual is awkward if he/she is marries), and need not detain us here.  The other reasons can basically be boiled down into two big categories.

First, how do you integrate employers – who do the tax-withholding in Canada – into such an operation?  How do they know how much to withhold?  How do they know when to stop withholding (i.e., when the borrower is finished repaying)? And are we actually going to require students to tell their employers about their outstanding loans?  Part of the issue here relates to people who do not have a single, full-time job that provides all of their income.  How does withholding work when students have two jobs?  Or when wages are not the sole source of income?   Of course there are fixes and workarounds to these questions, but every fix and workaround creates even more complication.  And complication is what ICR is meant to avoid.

(In Canada of course, we’ve got quite specific reasons why income-contingent loans are difficult: namely, most students are not receiving one loan, but rather two – one from the province, and one from the feds – and these don’t always have identical conditions.  You’d need to to align both levels of government across the country for this to work.  That’s not impossible, of course, but it’s tricky.)

But there’s one final reason why governments are reluctant to recoup debts through the tax system, and that’s for fear of damaging something called “tax morale”.  Basically, tax morale is a way of measuring one’s sense of moral obligation to pay taxes, or one’s belief that taxes contribute meaningfully to society.  A 2004 paper in the Journal of Economic Psychology examined the effect on tax morale of Australia’s Higher Education Contribution Scheme, which collects student debt (technically “contributions” rather than debts, but the distinction can be a bit fine). The result, perhaps unsurprisingly, was that students with HECS debt were likelier to have lower tax morale than those who did not.  That might sound trivial, but to governments, it is not.  Our system of taxation depends on voluntary disclosure and reporting.  Messing with that has big consequences; putter around with it at your peril.

None of this should be taken as a reason to not collect student loans through the tax system.  There are a lot of potential benefits to such a policy.  My caution here is simply that implementation will be complicated, may lead to different kinds of errors and difficulties (especially for individuals with multiple jobs), and have drawbacks in terms of tax morale.  For good reason, governments don’t undertake system changes with this level of complexity lightly; there would be a serious risk to service delivery if something went wrong.

Maybe, just maybe, this is the next big project in student aid, now that we seem to be getting the switching-tax-credits-to-grants thing right.  Just don’t assume that this would be a simple process.

October 06

Party Platform Analysis: The Liberals

Two quick things at the outset.  First, this will only look at the Liberal’s Monday announcement on student financing.  Tomorrow, I’ll look at their science/innovation policy in conjunction with that of the NDP, which apparently released a similar platform in conditions of complete secrecy last week.  Second, in the interest of full disclosure: I was asked by the Liberals to comment on a draft of their platform a few weeks ago.  I did so, as I would have for any party had they asked.  Judging by what I see in their platform, they took at least some of my comments into account.  So bear that in mind when reading this analysis.

The main plank of the Liberal announcement is that they are planning to increase grants for low income students by $750 million, rising to $900 million by the end of the mandate (which more than doubles the total amount; however,it’s not clear if this increase includes alternative compensation to Quebec… if it does not, add another $200 million).  The Canada Student Grant for Students from Low-Income Families (CSG-LI) will rise in value from $2,000/year to $3,000/year, and the Canada Student Grant for Students from Middle-Income Families (CSG-MI) will rise in value from $800 to $1,800.  The thresholds for both will be increased, meaning more students will receive the low-income grant, and more students with incomes in the $80-100K family income range (precise values not set, but this looks like about what they are going to do) will receive the middle-income grant.  In addition, the Liberals propose raising the repayment threshold (i.e. the level below which borrowers in repayment are not required to make payments on their loans) from just over $20,000 to $25,000.  It’s unclear what this would cost (take-up rate is uncertain), but a good bet would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million.

So, a $1 billion promise.  Except the Liberals are promising that this will all cost the taxpayer… nothing.  And the reason for that is that the Liberals have decided they will axe the education amount and textbook tax credits (something I, and, others have been suggesting for many years – for instance here).  Now, I actually don’t think this will quite cover the entire spending bill, but it will be within $100 million, or so (basically, it will cover the grants, but not the loan threshold change).

However, what this means is that the plan creates winners and losers.  The value of those federal tax credits for full-time students is $558/year (for part-time students it is $168).  Everybody will lose that amount.  For those who currently receive the CSG-LI, and those who receive CSG-MI and remain in the CSG-MI bracket after the thresholds move, the extra $1,000/year the Liberals are offering means they will be better off by $442 (but they will also benefit by getting the entirety of their $1,000 sooner in the form of grants, rather than delayed in the form of tax relief).  For those in the CSG-MI moving into the CSG-LI category, the net benefit will be $1,642.  For those who currently do not receive grants, but will now become eligible for CSG-MI, the net benefit will be $1,242.

So there are winners.  But there are losers, too.  Families with incomes over $100,000 (or so) will simply be out that $558.  And part-time students, who are ineligible to receive CSGs, will also be out $168.  But this is what happens when you try to do big policy without spending (many) additional dollars.  And there’s always the risk that they will come under political fire for “raising taxes”, which is arguably what cutting tax credits amounts to.

So, full marks for creativity here: these policies would make the funding system somewhat more progressive (in a slightly quirky way).  And full marks for putting out a backgrounder that makes it clear that these moves will create costs for provinces (their co-operation will be needed in order to raise the loan threshold) that need to be mitigated, even though the Liberals are vague on how this will actually work.

But it should be noted that by their own claim (which, as I said above, is probably not quite true), Liberals are choosing not to invest another dime in the sector, which puts them last among political parties in new spending commitments.  As pleasing as the re-arrangement of inefficient subsidies is, wouldn’t it have been better if they had added some funds on top of it?

March 17

Oregon’s “Pay It Forward” Scheme and the ICR vs. Graduate Tax Problem

You may have heard some rumblings from south of the border over the past few months with respect to a program called Pay It Forward (PIF).  The brainchild of a student group called Students for Educational Debt Reform, this idea was picked up by the Oregon assembly last summer; within a few months, over a dozen state governments were examining similar draft legislation.

The basics of the program are these: instead of paying tuition, students agree to pay a percentage of their future income (the percentages vary by state – in Oregon it’s 0.75% per year of study) for 20 years after graduation.  Some people mistook this for a version of income-contingent loans because it emphasized paying for school after-the-fact rather than up-front, and also because repayments were to be made as a function of income.  But there’s one key difference.  Loans have a limited liability: once you pay off the principal and interest, you’re done.  With PIF, there is no principal – once you start paying into a hypothecated fund, destined for the state’s higher education institutions, you keep on paying for 20 years no matter what.  This is formally known as a “graduate tax”.

Graduate taxes tend to be more progressive than income-contingent loans.  If you’re at the bottom of the income scale, you probably come out better off – you simply never pay anything.  If you’re at the top of the income scale, you’re likely going to pay a lot more because a portion of your income will go into public coffers long after you’d likely have paid off a loan.  Interestingly, the famous Yale Tuition Postponement Option of the early 1970s (designed by Nobellist James Tobin, and used by Bill Clinton when he attended law school there) went off the rails for precisely this reason – the richer students got tired of paying for the poorer ones, and started making a fuss.

One downside to a graduate tax is that it’s harder to collect than a loan.  In the US, for instance, it’s hard to imagine enforcing something like PIF, unless it was instituted nationally (if someone moved from Portland to Chicago, would Illinois be responsible for collecting the PIF contribution?).  A graduate tax was in fact examined relatively thoroughly not once but twice in England (the 1997 Dearing Report and the 2005 fee reform), and was rejected precisely because of concerns about grads evading repayment through emigration.

Another downside is: where exactly does the money come from while you’re waiting for graduates to start earning money?  If tuition is covering 40% of institutional expenditure, someone has to make that income good over the 20 or so years before the grad tax makes up the difference.  It’s not clear who that might be; if the state had money to do this, it probably wouldn’t be faffing around with ideas like PIF.  You could securitize the revenue stream, of course, but that also might get tricky.  Income-contingent loans lack graduate taxes’ most potentially progressive features, but they do have the advantage of: a) being collectable, and b) producing income for institutions in the short term.

There is of course one country that is trying very hard to merge the ideas of ICR and graduate taxes, with some really odd results.  More on the English experiment tomorrow.

January 20

Canada’s Income-Contingent Loan System

I see that yet another group has called for Canada to have an income-contingent Loan Program to help students fund their higher education studies.  Great idea.  In fact, it’s so great that the country adopted an income-contingent system five years ago. It’s just that nobody noticed.

Many people think that income-contingency requires that loan repayments be a fixed percentage of individual income, or that loan recovery be handled through the tax system.  While it’s true that some of the world’s more prominent examples of income-contingency (e.g. Australia, UK) have those features, those aren’t necessary characteristics of an income-contingent system.  All “income-contingent” means is that repayments to some degree reflect a borrower’s ability to repay.

Canada has had some element of income-contingency ever since the “Interest Relief” program was introduced in 1984.  Something of a misnomer, Interest Relief allowed unemployed borrowers in re-payment to suspend principal repayments for up to 18 months, during which time government would pay the interest on the loan.  The program was expanded in 1994 to include borrowers who were employed but had high debt service ratios.  In the 1998 Budget, the time limit went up to 30 (or in some cases 54) months.  That budget also announced a system whereby borrowers who didn’t quite meet the test for full interest-relief could get a partial subsidy – unfortunately, this system was never implemented, because the government, and the banks who administered the program at the time, couldn’t figure out how to make it work properly.  But the idea came back again in the 2008 Budget, with the introduction of RAP, which was basically the 1998 plan with some knobs added on.

So, like Australia and the UK, we have a system where borrowers with low-income pay nothing, and a system which phases in loan repayments gradually as borrowers begin to earn more money.  The only major difference between Canada and Australia/UK is that we say if you’re above a certain income level, you should be paying off a loan quickly under a normal system of amortization, whereas they say the hell with it, and just take a proportion of your income because it’s simpler to manage that way.

Why don’t we call it income-contingency?  Basically, it’s because no one wants to embarrass the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS).  For years, they insisted income-contingency was the work of Satan because in making loans easier to pay it paved the way for higher tuition fees (yes, really).  Yet, as the details of RAP were developed, they decided they quite liked it.  Since it’s rare CFS actually backs a government program, it was generally agreed that pointing out to them that that RAP was in fact income-contingency (which they still in theory strenuously oppose) would create unnecessary problems.

So there you go.  We have a reasonable student loan repayment system, which the main players like but no one else understands.  It’d be nice if we could find a way to communicate this to the country so we could stop with the inane demands for income-contingency, but c’est la vie.

March 08

The Return of Income-Contingency

The idea of income-contingent repayment (ICR) of student loans has been with us for a few decades now.  In 1945, Milton Friedman advocated something like an ICR loan as a way of reducing the risk associated with educational investment.  In 1971, nobel-prize winner, James Tobin, developed an ICR for use at Yale University.  The first national-level ICR was in Australia, which introduced its Higher Education Contribution Scheme in 1988; the idea quickly spread to New Zealand, the UK, and Sweden.  Under President Bill Clinton – who benefitted from one of those Tobin-designed loans while at Yale – ICR was added as one of four repayment options in the US Stafford Loans program.

In Canada, the idea was seriously taken-up in the early 1990s by the Council of Ontario Universities, who proposed pairing a significant increase in tuition fees with the introduction of an ICR student loan system.  The explicit pairing of fee increases with student aid improvements led the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) to oppose the idea; we ended up getting tuition hikes, but not the ICRs.

The ICR idea now appears to be having a renaissance.  In one form or another, Glen Murray, Justin Trudeau, and Marc Garneau (the latter in some detail – see here) have all come out in favour of improving access to higher education via the introduction of ICR.  This is all well and good, except that no one seems to have noticed that Canada’s loan system is already substantially income-contingent. It’s just that, to keep the CFS fooled, we pretend it isn’t.

The confusion arises because there’s no set definition of ICR.  Australia’s ICR is universally available, has low interest rates, and is collected through the tax system; in the American ICR, none of these are true.  Most of what people think of as the “good bits” of ICR could, in fact, be integrated into a non-ICR system without any difficulty.  Loans don’t have to be income-contingent for Canada Revenue to collect them, and if you want subsidized interest rates, just go ahead and subsidize them.  The only necessary condition for a loan to be considered income-contingent is that repayments vary somewhat with income, which is the main point of the CSLP’s existing Repayment Assistance Program (RAP).

So what do these programs actually amount to?  Trudeau’s program can’t be evaluated as he hasn’t gone beyond mouthing the words “I like ICR”.  Murray’s idea seems to involve eliminating parental income tests on loans (New Brunswick tried that – it didn’t go well).  Garneau’s proposal – by far the best fleshed-out – essentially amounts to raising the RAP threshold, and adding loan interest subsidies. Not terrible ideas, but possibly not the most effective investment in higher education.

November 12

Student Aid Tax Rates

Anyone who thinks taxation is overly complicated and onerous in this country needs to spend a day or two in the shoes of a student. That’s because our tax system has absolutely nothing on our student aid assessment system.

Student aid in Canada is distributed based on something called “assessed need”, which is defined as “assessed costs” minus “assessed resources” (not real costs or real resources, because those are subjective). Essentially, government has to ask students about their resources and then make a call about how much they can spare for education. To the extent government thinks you can spare enough, it won’t give you aid. Thus, the formula for various resource tests acts as a kind of tax rate.

The Canada Student Loans Program recognizes five different types of income and five different types of assets, and – here’s the fun part – uses different tax thresholds and rates for each one. Here are the key ones:

(1) Parental Income. The threshold depends on family size, but for a family of four in Ontario, the threshold is about $50,000. For the first $3,000 in post-tax income, the tax rate is 33%, after that, it’s 50%

(2) Spousal Income. Again, it varies a bit by province, but in practice, 80% of all spousal income over about $1,500/month is considered a resource.

(3) Scholarship income. The first three thousand is exempt; after that, the tax rate is 100%.

(4) Student Summer Income. The threshold varies depending on whether you live with your parents in the summer; if you do, your threshold is about $1,000 per month, if not it’s about $200. Above that, the tax rate is 100%.

(5) In-school income. The first $50/week is yours. After that, the tax rate is 100%.

(Look at the pattern of 100% tax rates on student income over the thresholds: CSLP seems at least as concerned with ensuring students don’t get too comfortable as it does with ensuring that students have a basic income floor).

On top of that, there are various asset tests: on income from RESPs, on any RRSPs held (you keep everything up to $2,000 per year of age over 18 – after that the tax is 100%), on any liquid savings in your name (100% on that), on the value of any vehicle owned, and, in one province at least, on the value of houses as well.

There are many words that come to mind when you lay the program out like this. “Unnecessarily complicated” is one. “Ludicrous” is probably another, though reasonable people can disagree about which bits are the least reasonable. (my money’s on the spousal rate, which I’ll address tomorrow).

As a country, we can do better than this. This week, we’ll show you how.

November 07

Spousal Income

Over the past decade, successive Canadian governments have tried to give bigger and bigger breaks to parents through the student aid system. Loan eligibility has steadily been widened to richer and richer families by making expected parental contributions less onerous. But for some reason, no recent government has seen fit to change spousal contribution rates. Since the mid-1990s, this rate has been set at 80% of the spouse’s combined net income over a threshold which varies a bit by province but which in practice is about $13,000 per year.

Implicitly, the policy assumes both partners are students (in which case why not just treat their two applications as individual independent students?). But if the couple has one student and one non-student, the implications are mind-bogglingly punitive. Essentially, as soon as the non-student earns anything over about $35,000 per year, the expected contribution jumps so high that it is impossible for his/her spouse to get a loan. At any given level of family income a spouse is expected to contribute $15,000 more to a student’s education than a parent would.

Thanks to this policy, families with one spouse in school and one spouse working face an effective tax rate (that is, taxes paid plus reductions in benefits) of…drum roll, please…over 90%. And that’s only if the working spouse is debt-free. If they are repaying their student loan as well, the income phase-out on Repayment Assistance means that the effective tax rate on spousal incomes rises to well over 100%. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more text-book example of a welfare wall – the disincentives to work are just phenomenal.

I could go on, but I’ll spare you the gory details (though for more deets, you can check out I Love You Brad, But You Reduce My Student Loan Eligibility which is a few years old but still basically correct). It’s just a clumsy set of rules written twenty years ago when pinching pennies regularly trumped good policy-making. But bureaucratic inertia has left this clunker on the books for too long. It’s terrible policy, which no one in government can defend with a straight face. It’s not just inequitable; it creates a serious barrier to mature students (many of whom are married) returning to school.

Married students don’t have their own organized interest group and for some reason, this isn’t a cause student unions have seen fit to take up on their behalf. But if, like me, you think this needs changing, just forward this email to diane.finley at parl.gc.ca and let her know this mistake needs fixing.

Let’s see what happens.