A degree in debt
Is it possible to graduate debt-free?
The fact that the average University of Regina undergrad pays in tuition and fees is more than $5,500 per year is startling. It is even more startling to hear that tuition is at risk of increasing again.
According to Statistics Canada, in the academic year of 2008-2009, tuition in Saskatchewan was around $5,064 for a bachelor’s degree. By 2009-2010, tuition rose to $5,238. This year, it has increased again to $5,601.
Angelique Saweczko, the director of Enrollment Services at the U of R, explained that it isn’t just tuition fees that students pay each year. Students also pay their course fees, which can range from nothing to $583 and compulsory fees, including ancillary fees and student service fees, all of which total up to $394.
As pricy as this may sound to the average student, Saweczko explained there are options for every student.
“The first thing we always encourage students to do is apply for the university awards,” she said. “We have lots of scholarships, bursaries, and awards. Some are based on merit, some are based on activities, or just basic financial need.
“We started to offer a lot more workshops this year to help students apply for scholarships and get more info on Government Student Assistance program,” Saweczko said. She also recommended that students struggling to pay their tuition fees apply for the Government Student Assistance program, which no longer offers exclusively loans. Currently, the program offers grants and bursaries, as well as loans, making it a favourable option for any student.
“Grants and bursaries are typically not repayable,” Saweczko said. “Students don’t have to pay them back. It is interest free and payment free, as long as they maintain fulltime status.”
For Courtney Guderyan, a second-year education student at the U of R, student loans are her bread and butter.
“My schooling doesn’t really allow much time for work, so I basically live off my student loans,” she said. “That strike left me for a couple days of no money coming in, so I had to pay for my books and rent by myself.”
With about $600 going to pay her rent for residence and her parking pass, and another couple hundred to cover life’s essentials, Guderyan is left with very little money to spare.
“Basically, my rent is what I cover with my student loans,” she explained. “I spend about $200, tops, a month on the nonessentials. There’s no way I could go home every weekend like a lot of people do. To save money, I stay in the university.”
As tuition is at risk of rising yet again, students are worried and, rightfully so, unimpressed.
“We’re already paying so much to be here,” Guderyan said. “We’re getting more education, and yeah, it’s going to help us in the long run, but times are hard. We’re not made of money.”
It appears that, by attending university, students are just setting themselves up for debt. But Saweczko believes that, with proper planning on the student’s part, it is possible to slenderize debt, or even eliminate it completely.
“Between applying for awards, applying for government assistance, and also working during the summer, or even part-time during the school year, students can greatly reduce their loans,” she said.
But after paying for school, rent, and everything else, Guderyan disagrees.
“I don’t think it’s possible to graduate debt-free,” she said. “The only way people can do that is if they work full-time, but then if you work full-time, how do you go to school?”