It is not surprising that many students in Canada struggle with debt given the fact that college education is expensive, and tuition fees continue to rise. Statistics show that federal loans alone amount to $28 billion while student aid in the form of scholarships and bursaries fails to keep up.
Tuition fees have increased by 40 percent over the last 10 years. Tuition fees are the highest in Ontario ($8,838), followed by Nova Scotia ($8,153), Saskatchewan ($7,522), and New Brunswick ($7,108). The lowest fees are in Newfoundland and Labrador ($2,885) and Quebec ($2,961). The average tuition fee is $6,838 up by more than 3 percent from the 2016/2017 academic year. The increase in fees varies by province and is the highest in Manitoba (6.5 percent) and the lowest in Alberta (0.1 percent). Increases in graduate tuition fees also vary and are the highest in Manitoba (6.5 percent). The lowest increase of 0.5 percent is in British Columbia. The highest fees are in programs such as pharmacy, law, medicine, and dentistry.
Given the overall increase in student tuition fees, it is not surprising that Canadian students are heavily indebted. The average level of debt also keeps rising. For example, in 2000, students owed $12,700 on average while in 2010, the average debt was $14,900. The percentage of students with large loans also increased from 33 percent to 44 percent - see more: https://www.lifeoncredit.ca/. In 2015, undergraduate students owed $16,727 on average. Doctoral students carry the highest debt of $29,000.
What Can Be Done
An online petition recently highlighted the fact that interest charges on government loans are used as a source of revenue and during 2016/2017 alone, revenue amounted to $662 million. Interest charges on provincial and federal student loans should be eliminated, which is what the petition calls for. In fact, several provinces offer interest-free financing, among which Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Manitoba. Another option is to reduce interest rates to make payments more affordable in light of the fact that it may take some time to find well-paid work after graduation.
How to Deal with Student Debt?
This depends on factors such as types of loans, amounts, interest charges, terms. In general, one option is to refinance or consolidate in order to get a lower interest rate. In this way, students pay more toward the principal and less toward interest charges. This is also a way to reduce the monthly payment amount. Obviously, finding a well-paid job is the best way to pay student loans faster. Another option is to find a second job to supplement income and pay down outstanding balances. Students who have large credit card balances may want to pay more than the minimum as interest charges add up - see more: https://www.lifeoncredit.ca/top-5-student-credit-cards-for-young-canadians/. The easiest way to go about this is to think of an extra amount that you can pay on a monthly basis and add it to your automatic payments. Even a small extra amount can make a different in the long run, and there is always an option to increase the monthly payment. It is best to start with loans and credit cards that charge high interest rates and then repay low-interest debt. It is also a good idea to start with short-term loans because they usually charge high rates.
Hundreds of universities, funds, non-governmental organizations, and other institutions offer university scholarships in Canada.
Funding is available under the Canada Graduate Scholarships-Master’s Program and is offered to graduate students in PhD and Master’s Program. Applicants across disciplines are eligible to apply, and some 2,500 applicants are approved each year. Funding is also available under the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship Program and Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships.
University and Area-Specific Scholarships
Universities in Canada offer scholarships based on academic achievement, community service, leadership role, extracurricular activities, athletic involvement, and other factors. Funding is offered by area of study as well. Examples of business management scholarships are the Bar None Entrance Leadership Award (http://scholarships.studentscholarships.org/bar_none_entrance_leadership_award_6437.php) and Alberta Canola Producers Commission Award. Students enrolled in different programs are eligible to apply, including Food Business Management, Agricultural Economics, Business Management. Awards are also available in other areas of study such as creative and visual arts, applied sciences, natural sciences, literature, performing arts. Students enrolled in Theatre Performance programs, for example, can apply for the Havie Chinks Bursary in Theatre Scholarship, offered by the Concordia University. Permanent residents, Canadian citizens, and international students are eligible to apply. The Arts Graduate Scholarships are offered to students majoring in Visual Arts, Literary Arts, Dance, Drama, and Music. Students are asked to submit an essay, portfolio or resume, and letter of recommendation. Only students enrolled in universities in Alberta and pursuing a Master’s Degree are eligible to apply.
Students enrolled in Criminal Justice and Law Programs have plenty of options as well. There are scholarships for students majoring in Law and Legal Studies, International Law, Human Rights, Forensic Science, and Conflict and Legal Resolution. The Trent University, for example, offers two awards to students majoring in Forensic Science – the Greg & Laura Piasetzki Award and Forensic Science Student of Excellence Prize. The University of British Columbia offers the Charles Bourne Graduate Scholarship in Law to graduate students majoring in International Law.
Teaching and education scholarships are also available across disciplines, including educational technology, educational psychology, secondary education, library and information management. Students pursuing a degree in Early Childhood Education have many options, depending on their province or territory. The Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia, for example, offers a number of awards, among which the Soroptimist International of Kamloops Awards, Early Childhood Education Faculty Scholarship. Students in New Brunswick are offered bursaries by the Early Childhood Educators of BC. Awards are offered in other areas as well, including engineering and technology, physics, philosophy, architecture and design, etc.
Other Forms of Financial Assistance
In addition to awards, there are other types of financial assistance such as assistantships and fellowships, work study programs, and student loans. Fellowships are somehow similar to scholarships in that they are offered to cover university expenses such as textbooks, room and board, and tuition. Assistantships are usually offered to graduate students and cover tuition expenses in exchange for work as part of a work and study program or similar. They teach low-grade or introductory courses and are tasked with organizing study groups, grading exams and assignments, etc.
Another option to meet college expenses is to apply for a bank loan or a government-sponsored financing. One of the main differences between the two types is that government loans are offered on the basis of demonstrated financial need. Part- and full-time students are eligible to apply. Many small and big banks in Canada also offer funding to students which comes with beneficial terms and competitive rates. Banks such as CIBC, the National Bank, and the Bank of Montreal offer lines of credit that can be used to pay tuition fees, essential supplies, computers, and other expenses. Student credit cards are also offered but they are ideal for paying day-to-day and small expenses.