Juggling school with debt: A student shares tips on staying the course
- September 4, 2009 4:48 PM |
- By Your Voice
Submitted by Sarah Jayne King
About/Bio: I am a fourth year student at the University of Ottawa studying international development and globalization. I work on campus as a work-study student. I am passionate about environmental and human rights issues and do a lot of volunteer work with the student federation, OPIRG-Ottawa, and the People's Republic of Delicious, a food collective which serves accessible vegan meals to students on a pay-what-you-can basis.
Since high school I have been a working student in order to save money for university and to become one of the few members of my family to pursue post-secondary education. Like most students, I have constantly been underpaid or unsure of employment. And I definitely haven't been able, even on a simple lifestyle, to save enough money for tuition fees, textbooks, food, and rent.
My take: By the end of this school year, I will have incurred just over $15,000 in debt. For that I consider myself somewhat lucky, as this is less than the average undergraduate student debt. I have learned in my undergraduate years that being a student means being able to deal with adversity.
Now, I didn't plan for skyrocketing tuition fees and a financial crisis. I'll have to continue working throughout the school year to make ends meet. Unlike many of my friends, I was able to find a summer job, but that's not enough to pay for my tuition fees, let alone my living expenses. Ironically, as a student who works, I get less money from the government in student loans. If I need to work in order to pay for my education and living expenses, I obviously need more financial assistance in the form of grants (preferable) and loans (not so preferable).
Students quickly learn how to prioritize. I usually start by making a budget, but quickly realize that I'll have to decide between textbooks and food. I only buy textbooks that I absolutely need. I spend a lot of time at the library using the one copy of the course textbook on reserve. It's cheaper but it means I have to share a copy with 40 to 400 students in my class who are doing the same.
Students learn how to be resourceful. There are all sorts of cheap or free food and services available to students provided by my Student Federation, like the campus food bank or the Peer Help Centre.
Students learn how to manage their time. I didn't start using a daily planner until I came to university - then it became essential. As a student taking five classes, I have 15 hours of class per week, and at least twice that in readings and studying. Add on a part-time job (or two) and the week becomes full. Most students, like me, volunteer as well.
So how do students manage to juggle all of the requirements of post-secondary education? They stay resilient.
Students know that in order to get meaningful employment after university, they need to study hard, volunteer to gain work and life experience find a job to pay the bills (which in my experience can affect grades), and try to have some social life. Oh, and sleep.
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