Tackling student debt through looking at the future


The debt crisis is affecting more than student’s pocketbooks, as deficits grow, health and grades are also at risk of collapsing. With scores of students at Laurier Brantford working full-time jobs, and accessing resources like the campus food bank, it’s become apparent that undergrads have money on the mind.

Concerned over the “staggering” increase in students accessing the campus food bank, Dean of Students, Adam Lawrence, is asking, has the university experience become more expensive?

Today’s student faces a variety of new financial challenges that didn’t exist for students of the past. Cell phone bills, increased rent and climbing grocery prices are all factors exclusive to the millennial student’s university experience, according to Lawrence.

“Students are very mindful of their mental well-being, so students are maybe eating healthier, which costs a little bit more if you’re grocery shopping.”

The more time students focus on their debt, the less they are focusing on their studies. With OSAP funding channeled into assisting full-time studies, working students often have to juggle long workweeks with a heavy course load. “We often recommend students work 10 to 14 hours… and honestly the number of students I see working 30 or 35 hours a week is growing,” Lawrence said.

This stress attached to such a busy lifestyle has been hugely detrimental to the status of GPA and mental health of students.

“I am constantly over-stressed,” says fourth year Human Rights student Jenna Gollinger. Working over twenty hours a week to accommodate for the expense of education has taken many tolls. “Having to work, you don’t get to go out as much and have that relief of a social life,” said Gollinger.

Lawrence urges students to be conscious of their education’s path, and become more aware of the resources available on campus to talk about their debt. Programs available to students at the financial aid office and career services will help balance the stress of debt, work and education.  “The main idea is that when a student writes an exam, we want things to be equal,” said Lawrence.

For students juggling heavy work and course loads, the future can seem all too distant. “You have to be positive,” said Gollinger, “I want to say it’s worth it, I hope it’s worth it, but I don’t know.”

According to the Student Loans and Debt report from Statistics Canada, the average student debt at graduation for a Canadian undergraduate student is well over $20,000. The report also revealed that one in four students struggle to pay off their student debt after graduation.

For students like Gollinger, the debt cycle is vicious. “It’s kind of ironic, the more I work the less OSAP is willing to give me, so that’s less money I have and thus more I have to work.”

According to the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA), a student’s first encounter with Ontario’s difficult post-grad labour market will typically be during their search for a summer job. According to OUSA’s 2011 survey, Ontario has one of the worst rates of student summer unemployment in Canada. In June 2012, the Canadian student unemployment rate was approximately 13 per cent, while Ontario’s student summer unemployment rate for those aged 20-24 was approximately 20 per cent.

“It’s tough being a student,” said Lawrence. “The reality of it is, we’re seeing a high percentage of students who leave university and get into the field that they want, but it’s a process.”

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