Madam Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to address the concerns of the member for Scarborough—Rouge River on Canada student loans.
Rest assured our government is closely monitoring the student loan portfolio. Students will receive the financial assistance to which they are entitled.
Our government is fully aware of the vital role of post-secondary graduates in our economic recovery and prosperity.
We are taking steps to address concerns that the student loan portfolio limit could be surpassed in future years.
The government has recently introduced in Parliament the keeping Canada's economy and jobs growing act that proposes to amend the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act. We want to transfer the authority to establish a limit on the amount of outstanding student loans from legislation to regulations. This will provide the government with the flexibility to respond quickly to growth in the loan portfolio.
It should be underlined that the policies of post-secondary education institutions, including the establishment of tuition levels, fall under provincial and territorial jurisdiction. We support the provincial and territorial governments through block funding for post-secondary education under the Canada social transfer. This ensures that provinces and territories have the flexibility to invest funding according to their needs and priorities. This reflects a long history of Canadian governments working together on shared national priorities. It recognizes that in the areas of provincial jurisdiction, the provincial and territorial governments are best placed to deliver these services and to be accountable for their outcomes.
Already we are seeing shortages in qualified workers in our labour market. We have to give today's students the tools to succeed in the world of tomorrow. By tools I mean access to education, but also the financial supports they need to pursue higher education. Numerous supports are available to help Canadians financially for their post-secondary.
In the 2009-10 school year, the Canada student loans program provided nearly $2.7 billion in loans and grants to more than 400,000 Canadian students. This included $593 million in Canada student grants received by 295,000 Canadian students. Grants made post-secondary education more affordable, particularly for under-represented groups, including students from low and middle-class income families, part-time students, students with permanent disabilities and students with dependents.
More Canadians than ever before are applying for loans to pursue their post-secondary education. This proves that Canadians continue to believe that education is a worthwhile investment.
The Government of Canada is mindful of concerns about rising student debt and remains committed to helping students access affordable and complete their post-secondary education with a loan that they can reasonably afford to repay.
For borrowers who face repayment difficulties, the government introduced in budget 2008, under the Canada student loans program, the repayment assistance plan. Borrowers are now required to pay back what they can reasonably afford based on their family income and family size.
In 2009-10 approximately 160,000 student loan borrowers who had difficulty repaying their loans benefited from the repayment assistance plan. The plan, along with other methods undertaken by HRSDC to prevent default, has led to an historic low in loan default rates, which currently sits at just under 15%.
Post-secondary education has never been more important than it is today and our government recognizes this importance.