The Mount Allison Students’ Union participated in the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations’ (CASA) “Wall of Debt” campaign, with students contributing “bricks” of debt by writing their total projected debt on construction paper and sticking it to the wall in Gracie’s Café.
By the time MASU councillors had concluded their shifts at the table in Gracie’s, seventy-three students had contributed their debt totals. Collectively, they owe nearly $2.5 million dollars.
CASA orchestrated the national campaign to press Canadian federal and provincial governments to reform student financial aid.
“The federal and provincial governments should prioritize access to up-front financial assistance so more people with less means can access post-secondary education,” reads the campaign website.
CASA argues that increased student debt creates a number of social and economic problems. “In 2011, 42.3% of 20-29 years olds lived in their parental home compared to 26.9% in 1981,” read their website. “Graduates saddled with debt are less likely to own a home or vehicle, have children, get married, or have personal savings.”
With seventy-three students having participated, the wall of debt totalled $2,433,327, with an average of more than $33,000 per student. These numbers are in line with the Canadian average of $34,413, as reported by Statistics Canada in 2010 and cited in a March 5 MASU Press Release.
MASU Vice-President External Affairs, Ian Smith, said in the same release: “Costs are the number one barrier to post-secondary education,” adding that, “More efficient financial assistance would help overcome this difficulty.”