September 24, 2020

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By RACHEL ROY

Whether you attend a college or university, students all across the country are dealing with financial problems.

Money woes can have you second-guessing whether you should swipe for a Tim Hortons coffee, pay that overdue bill, spend that extra couple of dollars on groceries or make sure you make rent.

Financial woes also contribute to student worry about how they perform in the classroom because working all hours of the night to pay for classes doesn’t lead to the best marks. Passing classes gives students a small window of peace because their degree or diploma should result in a job which will help pay for all their debt.

Some students do not have to worry too much thanks to mom and dad helping them out. But others do not have that luxury – instead they accumulate OSAP or bank loan debt.

Students have other issues to worry about along with their debt. These include living arrangements, moving, going to school, passing, possibly an extra job and generally worrying about their well-being. These issues can hang over students’ heads causing their stress levels to skyrocket.

“I think it’s scary, it’s overwhelming and it stresses people out,” said Lindsay Dietrich, a first-year recreation and leisure student. “I think it’s a big reason why some people don’t do post-secondary.”

Horror stories from older siblings and friends have some people worrying about attending post-secondary schools because of the fear of student debt.

According to the Canadian Federation of Students website (cfs-fcee.ca), in 2010 the total amount of student loans owed to the government was $15 billion, the legislated ceiling set by the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act.

This figure, however, only accounts for a portion of total student debt because it does not include provincial and personal loans, lines of credit and education-related credit card debt. Knowing this, the amount of student debt in 2015 could be much higher.

The CFS website says students who study in Ontario or the Maritimes have the highest average debt loads in Canada, averaging more than $28,000.

“I think Ontario is bigger and has bigger schools and more schools,” said Tracey Goldie-Mascoll, a financial aid officer at Conestoga College. “Just think about this area alone. University of Guelph, University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier, Conestoga, that’s a lot of schools in one small area so imagine the number of students in those schools alone collecting OSAP and debt.”

Students may be worrying about debt but there are several ways to get free money without having to pay it back, such as bursaries and scholarships.

These are usually easy to apply for; all that is normally required is a filled-out application and possibly an essay. These essays, however, are not a five-page-long, double-spaced essay about a random topic. Mascoll said the essays are usually asking ‘why?’

“They’re saying, ‘OK you have a financial need, tells us why,’” Mascoll said.

Despite these opportunities, students still miss out on them.

The Financial Aid Office advertises scholarships and bursaries through the college website, and sends an email to students through their student portal.

Conestoga has a general bursary as well but students had to apply for it by Feb. 6.

“It’s amazing how many people never hear about it,” Mascoll said. “We’re trying to hit all those spots where students are looking.”

Mascoll estimated that they only received roughly 1,400 general bursary applications, but Conestoga has between 10,000 and 11,000 students.

Students are encouraged to visit the Financial Aid Office in the Welcome Centre on Doon campus if they are worried about their finances.

 

 

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