As the holiday season approaches, everyone is busy trying to get everything in order with their lives, but university students are struggling financially to maintain their part-time jobs and still afford to go to school.
Among those individuals is Mount Royal University student, Carley Louw.
Louw is a 21-year-old nursing student who also works a part-time job at Alberta Health Services as a health-aid worker.
“School is really expensive, like paying for textbooks and everything,” says Louw. “Especially right now where I've been in like a split semester and, so far, it's been the most expensive semester [yet]. I’ve had to pay over $4,000 for classes, and $2,000 for textbooks.”
Louw fears that when the holiday season arrives she will not be able to afford gifts for her loved ones.
“Having things being so expensive makes it difficult, cause the majority of my money goes there,” says Louw. “I don't have any money left for purchasing gifts, or anything like that.”
According to Statistics Canada, between the years 2005 and 2010, the total cost of money owed for education differed and depended on the student's degree level.
For students completing a college degree, their debt climbed to two per cent. For those completing a bachelor's degree, debt rose four per cent, and for students completing a master’s degree, it rose a further six per cent.
Both a student advocate and the vice president of external at the Students’ Association of Mount Royal University (SAMRU), Amanda LeBlanc has some insight on the financial struggles of a university student.
“Some students have to reduce their course load to part-time in order to pay for their tuition and fees because they do not want to take on additional debt,” LeBlanc says. “You can see the reduced course load, and students are taking longer to finish.”
LeBlanc’s role as VP of external is to guarantee the qualities that make Mount Royal University enjoyable and an exceptional place for students to succeed in academics and prosper in personal growth. However, having a part-time job has shown to decrease a student's academic success and personal growth.
“When you are participating in a job, it negatively impacts your academic performance — your physical, mental, and emotional health,” says LeBlanc.
She mentions that with the constant burden of financial difficulties weighing down on a student’s mind, it negatively impacts their overall experience in university.
“Things like exponential learning, internship or research opportunities or if you wanted to study abroad when tuition and fees are so high and you are forced to work,” she adds. “You are not able to participate in all of those activities that contribute to a good post-secondary experience.”
LeBlanc states the problem goes beyond students from Canada. It is exceptionally worse for international students who chose to study at a Canadian University.
“International students… pay substantially more in tuition and fees. S,o any increase in tuition and fees can negatively impact them and … sometimes, an increase in tuition and fees can mean having to return home to their home country because they are not able to afford to finish their education in Canada,” says LeBlanc.
Currently, three per cent of students enrolled at MRU are international, and LeBlanc emphasizes the importance of having international students at MRU.
“It is important that we recognize the intrinsic value of cultural exchange, of international students that bring to our university and we don’t take that for granted,” says LeBlanc. “I think we risk losing that value when we raise tuition and fees for international students arbitrarily, without proper notice to students.”
“It is important that we are valuing their contributions to our university campus and that we are taking care of them.”
For the past four years, the Alberta government has frozen tuition fees for Albertan university students.
This year, it was announced by the Alberta government that they will extend the tuition freeze until the year 2020. This allows students and their families to help better shape their future without the burden of financial issues.
- By Mollie Smith