Post-secondary students returning to class on campuses across Alberta this September say they are feeling the pinch.
As living costs continue to climb, first-year student Victoria Leong was shocked to learn how quickly her expenses add up.
Leong lives in residence on campus and is enrolled in a meal plan. The plan provides her with meals Monday to Friday.
“Then, on the weekends, I don’t have any food and I’m too stingy to pay, so I just starve on the weekends,” Leong said.
According to the Council of Alberta University Students, many students in the province are forced to cut down on food options to make ends meet.
“These students aren’t doing that because they want to. They’re doing that because they don’t have the money to afford it,” said Chris Beasley, chair of the Council of Alberta University Students.
Beasley is calling on the province to help students ease some of the financial pressures.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the ministry of advanced education said:
“To address affordability, we raised the monthly payment for the Alberta Student Grant to $425 to ease pressure on student budgets for the upcoming academic year. Over $1.1 billion in student loans are available through Budget 2023 to help an estimated 131,000 students invest in their futures through the pursuit of post-secondary education.”
The statement continued, encouraging students to apply for scholarships, grants and bursaries made available under student aid.
“For recent graduates, we doubled the grace period for student loan repayment to 12 months and raised the eligibility threshold for the Repayment Assistance Program to $40,000 from $26,000,” the statement read.
The Campus Food Bank is hoping to fill the gap on high grocery prices by providing relief with non-perishable foods.
Executive Director Erin O’Neil said they have significantly increased the amount of food they provide to students.
“Just a couple of years ago we were giving out less than 500 pounds of food per week, just before COVID,” she explained. “This year we’re giving out almost 5,000 pounds of food per week.”
With more people relying on their service, the Food Bank said they’re running out storage space for the nearly 5000 pounds of food needed to provide for their community.
The Food Bank saw around 650 visits in September 2022. They’re expecting that figure to jump after seeing a high number of drop-ins this past summer semester.
“This August we had 950 visits, and were expecting over 1,000 visits in the month of September,” she said.
Leong said she’s relying on her loans to get through her expenses for the foreseeable future.
“I’m scared for when I finally have to pay them off,” Leong said.