It’s becoming harder for post-secondary students to get by, says the president of the Students’ Association of Red Deer College.
“There is a clear rising cost of living that students are facing, with housing and food costs,” said Brittany Lausen.
“Over the past few years … there have been a lot more students accessing our student food bank than there has been in years prior. We actually went $6,200 into our reserve this past school year because so many students are needing to access the food bank.”
Federal student debt is approximately $17 billion, according to documents obtained by The Canadian Press.
Earlier this year, officials warned the federal government that costs for post-secondary education have increased at rates “above wage growth and inflation” over the past decade, while the cost of living has also jumped.
This has created an affordability crunch for new and graduating students.
Lausen said the stress that comes with looming debt can affect students’ ability to learn.
“There’s that balance of doing good in school, but also having a part-time job or even a full-time job to minimize your debt when you reach the end of your post-secondary journey.
“There’s no guarantee you’re going to get a job in your field. Red Deer College has a relatively high success rate with employment placing in your field after you graduate, but there’s still that fear that you won’t find a job right after you graduate.”
About half of graduating students in Canada leave school with some degree of debt, with the average sum of roughly $26,000, according to the Canadian Federation of Students and the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.
Borrowers typically take nine to 15 years to pay off federal loans – debt can eat up as much as 13 per cent of a recent graduate’s income.
There is some potential relief coming for students concerned about the cost of post-secondary education, said Lausen.
“Thankfully, with tuition being regulated by CPI with the passing of Bill 19, which came into effect February 1st, that gives a little consistency for the students who will be planning ahead of time.”
The average age of RDC’s students is 28, which means many aren’t coming straight from high school, said Lausen.
“They aren’t still living at home and they might have families or other dependants that they’re supporting, and that adds an additional expense.”
Post-secondary education is “an expense. But now with Red Deer College becoming a university, students (from central Alberta) have the opportunity to stay home and save money,” Lausen added.
–With files from The Canadian Press