University is back in session. For students, that means it’s back to classes, seeing friends and growing debt for those with student loans.
“My goal is to get into vet-med so that’s… I’m looking at about $100,000 worth of student loans and debt and stuff like that, so it’s scary to think about for sure,” University of Saskatchewan (|U of S) student Kensington Renneberg said.
“It’s a lot of pressure it’s always in the back of my mind whenever I think about it.”
“Tuition and transportation here is a big cost. We get student loans, but between coming here and paying for the rent and tuition, it’s a big burden because we have barely any money left for bills, groceries and whatnot,” U of S kinesiology student Wasim Alkhanati said.
The cost of tuition has been going up in Saskatchewan for the past decade, since the end of a tuition freeze. This year, a U of S arts and science tuition climbed 4.8 per cent and the average tuition at the University of Regina (U of R) rose 2.8 per cent.
Both tuition increases have been attributed to rising operating costs, and limits to provincial operating grants.
Based on Statistics Canada data, Saskatchewan has the fourth university highest average tuition among the provinces; trailing Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Ontario.
For a humanities program, Saskatchewan’s average annual tuition is $6,370. The national average is listed at $5,773.
U of R provost and vice-president academic Tom Chase said the Statistics Canada study is interesting, but does not paint an accurate picture.
“One of the reasons is that this is a small jurisdiction so a small number of fairly high cost programs such as medicine and dentistry and so on, tends to skew the average for the province upward,” Chase said.
“Among the English speaking universities in Canada, only 20 of 58 have lower tuition and mandatory fees than the University of Regina.”
Chase added the average undergraduate debt at the U of R is $15,000.
“It’s a good investment, as difficult as that is for students that are working 30 hours a week to pay for their education now,” he said.
Chase added the U of R hit a new enrolment record this year, 15,475 students on the first day of class.
Working through the summer, sometimes at multiple jobs, and part time school year is how many students Global News spoke with are handled financial stressors. Some, like Madison Coderre, chose the U of R to save money.
“It’s hard to move to though because residence fees are so high, so staying at home is a little easier even if tuition fees are higher,” she said.
Fourth-year business administration student Ahmed Namai said he feels he’s getting value for his tuition, but there’s a ceiling.
“Honestly, students will be looking at other alternatives if tuition continues to rise,” he said.
“I think it’s worth it in terms of education, but I do think it’s a little too much to be honest,” Adam El-Gohaoa, a fourth-year computer science student, said.
Managing financial pressures
Several students said they were receiving help from their parents to pay for tuition. For parents looking to help their kids afford an education, Astra Financial Services owner Zena Amundsen suggested opening a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP).
“That savings plan has a government matching grant program, so the government’s going to match up to 20 per cent, up to $500 a year, so essentially that’s like free money,” she explained.
If you can afford it, Amundsen suggested contributing $200 per month to an RESP to get the maximum government benefit.
For students worrying about debt, she advised talking with your bank to try and get a better interest rate on repaying student loans in opposition to making payments with a credit card, which carries a higher interest rate.
WATCH: Money 123: Why do university tuition fees keep going up?