This year, Mount Royal University began charging a course registration fee which had a lot of students searching for extra cash.

While the fee is eventually deducted from tuition costs, some students are struggling to balance their day to day finances and are looking for ways to increase their income and reduce debt.

University Estimates reports that there are over 1,034,000 full-time students across Canadian universities. 81,600 students in Alberta receive student loans. 54,503 scholarships were awarded to students in Alberta between 2016 and 2017, according to Alberta Advanced Education.

The average tuition cost per year according to the CBC News is $6,571. 54 per cent of students are currently employed according to the Canadian university survey consortium, of that, 46 per cent say it negatively affects their studies. The average student leaves university with $26,000 worth of debt according to CBC News.

All these numbers have one thing in common: all students are affected by them. Jamie Barber, 21, is finishing her third year at Mount Royal University studying business with a double major in accounting and human resources. Barber’s parents took a proactive step towards her education.

“My parents set up an education fund when I was younger so they used that to pay for my school,” says Barber.

After completing her four years at MRU she will leave with zero debt. Despite the fact that her tuition is paid for, Barber still works part-time at a law firm downtown. Working roughly 15 hours a week, Barber says it can affect her schoolwork at times.

“Sometimes I’m needed on weekends if there’s court stuff and trial stuff to prep so that kind of takes away from my studying,” says Barber. “I definitely can’t do group work and stuff on Fridays which is most people’s days off so it’s a little bit hard to juggle.”

Despite having her tuition paid, Barber says she has applied for scholarships to ease the costs of school but has never been approved for awards due to her financial status.

“They ask about your financial situation and I’m not that much in need so I don’t really get those,” she says.
image2 1Jaspreet Khosa graduated from the University of Lethbridge in 2018 and is currently working towards her Chartered Professional Accountant certificate. By working part-time during University, Khosa was able to leave school with under 10,000 in debt. Photo courtesy of Jaspreet Khosa

Working off the debt

While some students have education funds set up for them, not everyone has that advantage.
Jaspreet Khosa, 25, is a recent graduate of University of Lethbridge and is currently working at a top accounting firm in Calgary.

Khosa spent four and a half years working on her accounting degree and says she has racked up roughly ten thousand dollars in student loan debt. During school, Khosa worked part-time at Joey’s as a server and was able to save a good chunk of money.

“I would work for the summer and then pay the next semester’s tuition and then keep working during school,” says Khosa.

During her time at the U of L Khosa says she only applied for two scholarships both of which she received.

“I got two thousand… they’re both for Jason Lang,” says Khosa.

Khosa was fortunate enough to find a job right out of university and is now working on completing her Chartered Professional Accountant certificate, which her company pays for.

While it’s clear that working part-time is a common choice for post-secondary students, there are other options available to help with financial aid.

There are various scholarships and awards available across the province. Many students scroll through the awards page on Mount Royal’s website to see if they qualify for any but don’t look any further.

There are a lot of resources out there for students looking to apply for awards. The Government of Canada along with Student Aid Alberta both provide a list of available scholarships. Many businesses offer awards to students in their particular field.

image3Posters of different financial resources available to students. There are also many scholarships and bursaries that students can apply to that aren’t on bulletin boards around Mount Royal. Photo by Madasyn Kost

Scholarships in Calgary

Another excellent resource is The Calgary Foundation which is a Canadian registered charity. The foundation, which was founded in 1955, continuously works to make a difference in the community.

Darlene Chrapko, the scholarships and awards adviser, says the foundation wouldn’t be possible without its many donors.

“We work with donors to help them advance their philanthropic goals and we support the community in a number of ways, working with donors who establish endowment funds with us. All of our resources are pooled and invested. We support all aspects of the community and part of that is education and hence we have an awards program,” says Chrapko.

Chrapko says the foundation has over 200 different scholarships and awards available, all of which cater to different types of students.

“The awards that are designated to post-secondary institutions are based on criteria that we work with the donors to set. We also have a number of awards that we offer through the Calgary Foundation directly, where we oversee the entire selection process and we have about 30 of those unique awards that are posted on our website which students apply directly to and there at all levels of education,” says Chrapko.

Many of the Calgary Foundation’s awards have civic engagement, volunteerism and involvement in the community as an aspect of their criteria. The bulk of the deadlines for the awards are due at the end of May and June.

Some of the scholarships available include the Optimist Club William J. Cummer Scholarship which is eligible to students living in Alberta who are entering their final year of school, the Kathryn Huget Leadership Award which is targeted at women in a leadership role and working on their Masters or Doctorate. The foundations newest award is the Grace & Good Fortune Bursary for Single Mothers which is aimed at single mothers attending either full or part-time school.

The award qualifications are online at The Calgary Foundation’s website also provides a national database which outlines all the different types of awards available for students and how to apply for them.

“In that section, we also have a brochure detailing all of the awards that we have available through a variety of different post-secondary, high school, and even have some graduate-level awards,” says Chrapko.

image2SAMRU poster wall with information about student benefits. Included are a health and dental plan for Mount Royal students. Photo by Madasyn Kost

Resources for struggling students

University is expensive in all aspects, from living costs, tuition, and even food. The Student’s Association of Mount Royal University (SAMRU) works to ensure students feeling stressed about money have a place to go.

SAMRU has tons of resources for students who are struggling financially. The association offers interest-free emergency student loans up to $300. They offer free money management workshops, which teach students how to make responsible financial decisions. Food support is another thing SAMRU offers, they currently work with the Calgary food bank offers students in need food hampers. There is also free breakfast from 8:45 a.m. until supplies last every day during the fall and winter semesters.

Attending university can be stressful and costly, but there are resources out there to help, you just have to know where to find them.

Editor: Brian Cortez |

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