Sometimes it feels like we’re constantly stuck in quicksand as students, for those of us having to pay tuition costs and living expenses, debt is all too familiar. The most logical way to avoid debt would be to work as much as possible in order to pay it off, but as a student, working means falling behind in studies, assignments and school in general. Everything seems like a lose-lose situation, but in reality, there are many ways to budget in order to help you pay off any debts you have once you’ve graduated.
According to Statistics Canada, the average debt of a student after graduating is upwards of $25,000. That is a lot of money considering the fact that the average yearly income for a student graduating out of university is usually less than $50,000 (considering their career path and degree). In May 2016, the Liberal Government under the leadership of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau implemented a change in the financial aid system. In the proposed change, Trudeau suggested a way that low income students (such as current full time students with or without work) could avoid paying back their student loans until they are making over $25,000 a year. The government also plans to provide 50% more to government grants for students. One of the major down sides, though, especially for undergraduates, is the plan to exempt the tax credit that we gain at the end of each year, which could also cause some students to lose thousands of dollars a year in tax credits. Not only will this plan help students still in their programs, but it will also eventually help graduated students find a job through a program that will match postsecondary institutions with companies that are providing paid co-op programs in order to increase the chances of a well paying job for students in their field straight out of university.
Since the plan was only implemented in May of this year, it will be years before it is in full effect and fully benefitting students in the postsecondary system. Currently, there are a number of options open to students in order to help pay off their student loans and debts. One of the best options, which are also offered at Concordia University of Edmonton are student bursaries. Student Bursaries are (for the most part) locally funded financial awards that are provided to students in order to help assist with the costs of university. They are dependent on the individual student’s financial need, academic eligibility, and sometimes cultural or educational background. For example, Concordia offers a number of student bursaries that range from awards based on a student’s GPA, to students of a certain degree (such as students in the management program over the arts and sciences or vice versa). The most desirable aspect of the student bursary award, especially for students that are struggling to pay back student loans, is the fact that you do not need to pay back the money that you are awarded with. Student bursaries, depending on the ones you apply for, range from $200 to $2000. Of course, there are other awards, such as scholarships that are offered to students solely based on their academics, which are also available to apply for on the Concordia website.
Other good options that should always come into play is personal budgets on spending the money that you do have, planning for up and coming expenses, and saving any extra cash that you can in order to maintain some sort of backup in case of emergencies. Students should also pay attention to their student emails that they receive, which sometimes may include information on financial assistance provided on behalf of the school or it’s affiliated partners. The stress of student debt may sometimes feel like it will never end, but by seeking out more information, not only from the province or government’s perspective, but also right in your very own university, you may be able to find ways to help relieve some of the student loan stress quicker than you think.