Tuition fees are a problem for students all across Canada. Rates are up at both colleges and universities, with the average Canadian citizen and permanent resident paying $6,838 per year for undergraduate programs (and international students paying $27,159). These numbers vary depending on the school, province, and program choice, but the undeniable truth is that tuition has become grossly inflated at a rate that's out of sync with the rest of the economy.
Tuition itself isn't even the highest expense students have to pay. There's rent, groceries, transportation, books and course material, and miscellaneous expenses. These additional costs add up to around $20,000 a year for domestic students.
Assistance not enough
Many students find themselves in financial limbo when their parents' income prevents them from accessing financial assistance but isn't enough to cover education and housing expenses. These programs also assume that all parents are willing and able to contribute from their salary to their children's education.
Even when assistance programs are made available, many students find it challenging to get access to funding. Indigenous students who receive bursaries on the basis of their Aboriginal identity face onerous reporting demands for what is a small amount of money. Frequent changes to grant and loan programs put students' financial futures at risk. And even students who are able to secure grants and loans are still walking away from post-secondary school thousands of dollars in debt, perpetuating the cycle of poverty. High debt loads weigh even heavier on students who are already marginalized due to racism, sexism, and other prejudices against their identities.
With school and related expenses being so high, many students are taking on multiple part-time jobs just to cut down on their debt. Many programs also require students to complete unpaid internships as part of their coursework. Lack of money and lack of downtime are taking their toll on the mental health of students, and studies predict that rates of depression and anxiety in students will continue to rise. Wait times to see a mental health professional on campus are frequently longer than a semester, and mental health problems left untreated continue to affect new graduates as they struggle to find work.
There's still hope
The federal government has the ability to issue interest-free student loans and can create a surplus for itself by closing tax loopholes. Increased access to higher education helps our entire society. Graduates pay back the investment made in their schooling by contributing to the workforce, by participating in the economy, and by paying taxes. Many of the world's strongest economies offer free tuition. Let's help students start their careers on the right foot without shackling them to a lifetime of debt before they even graduate.