Financing Your University Education
Student debt in Canada amounts to $12.5 billion–and grows by $17 a second. On average, college students accumulate a debt of $13,000 by graduation; students in bachelor programs graduate with a debt of $20,000. Financing your college or univeristy education can be a daunting task–but it can be done. Here’s how.
Accountant Tim Cestnick, author of Winning the Education Savings Game, cites five ways to pay for your education: beg, borrow, sweat, steal and save. The last two refer to strategies your parents might use: saving money through a Registered Education Savings Plan or other means or “stealing” from their own resources (e.g. cashing in non-retirement investments or getting a line of credit against the equity in their home).
Which leaves you with begging, borrowing and sweating to fund your education. Here’s what to do:
There are more than 20,000 scholarships available in Canada, from schools of course, but also government, companies, associations, unions, and more. Two great places to start: www.scholarshipscanada.com and www.studentawards.com. You can search for scholarship opportunities and get tips on applying. Many qualifications go beyond grades – things like participation in extracurricular groups, school events, student council, sports, the community, and volunteering. You’ll also find information on bursaries; unlike scholarships, which are merit based, bursaries are need based (and do not have to be repaid). The federal government also offers grants to increase the participation of under-represented groups in post-secondary education, e.g. grants for students from low-income families and students with disabilities (www.hrsdc.gc.ca/en/learning/canada_student_loan/index.shtml).
Find out about Canada Student Loans at www.canlearn.ca. The site also has links to the provincial and territorial loan programs. Each student assistance office reviews your application, assesses your financial need and the expected financial contribution (from parents, scholarship money, etc.), and determines the amount that you can get. As a student, the government pays the interest on your behalf while you’re in school, and you don’t have to repay the loan until six months after you complete your studies. Because government loans are based on need, they aren’t available to all. Even then, they may be insufficient. Banks, trust companies and credit unions are another option, and many charge a preferential interest rate for student loans.
Two options here. The typical strategy is to put money towards school from your earnings from part-time work during the school year, and full-time work during the summer. But you can flip that around, working full-time to finance education on a part-time basis. Earning while learning has a few benefits, besides raising some much-needed cash. It gives you a real stake in your education, and provides some valuable job experience – something that puts you that much further ahead when you graduate.