Students in the toughest financial situation

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Everybody is experiencing inflation and increased living costs these days. As a doctoral candidate, I’m witnessing how the already difficult lives of many in my community are becoming truly unbearable.

Besides basic living costs like groceries and rent, students deal with high university fees and education expenses. Young college and undergraduate students, especially ones from rural areas like the Pontiac, often face two choices; an expensive and long daily commute if they stay at home with parents or renting something closer to their school, often paying premium prices for what would otherwise be considered slums. With increases in fuel and housing costs, it’s next to impossible to be a financially
independent student while still maintaining twenty-first century “luxuries” like home internet, mobile phones, and groceries (beyond Pogos and KD). It’s clear that students without significant financial support from their families will experience an education gap. As an immigrant,

I’m particularly shocked to see this in the country I now call home, one with one of the most educated populations on the planet.

The federal government is offering some financial assistance to students this year like doubling the Canada Student Grant (up to $6,000 per year), and waiving interest on Canada Student Loans, but is this really enough to change the crisis?

At the same time, the scarce institutional financial support available for students seems to have evaporated over the last year. For instance, the University of Ottawa decreased scholarships and funds this past year and cut the hours of student job contracts. Universities still rake in all the money they need through increases in tuition fees. They’re really not expanding student services, so where are they spending all this money?

According to CUPE, the union representing most student workers at the University of Ottawa, the budget report for 2022-2023 claims the financial situation was “challenging” this past year. Why?

The University seems to have plenty of money for properties and buildings. This seems to be the trend at many Canadian educational institutions. Maybe they got ahead of themselves while “money was cheap” and now, with rising interest rates, they’re feeling the belt-tightening?

At a time when higher education institutions should be helping students weather yet another recession and potential world war, they insist on gouging.

But maybe there’s a better way.

Post-secondary educational institutions should be expanding remote learning access, improving accessibility for rural students, opening satellite campuses, etc. We have the room here in the Pontiac.

Hey @UQO, @McGill, @Concordia, @Laval, @Sherbrooke: we’re in your backyard, come out to see us!