Most students must work to support themselves while in school

Almost half of students with jobs say it negatively affects their schoolwork. The more hours they work, the worse their grades become.

HALIFAX (Canadian University Press) — Most students work while in school, and it’s not for the job experience. Almost three quarters of students find they can’t otherwise afford the cost, according to a survey by CIBC.
Rylie Matson drives 20 minutes each way to attend school at University of Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, British Columbia. She lives with her parents to save on expenses, and works three to four days a week at a naturopath office.
Matson said her courses demand a heavy workload and balancing classes with employment can be challenging at times. “I need to work to live,” she said, echoing many other students in the same position.
In the end, post-secondary education pays off; Statistics Canada has found graduates are more likely to find jobs and make more money. According to StatsCan, half of undergraduate students take on loans to pay for school, graduating with an average debt load of $26,000. The average undergraduate tuition comes to almost $6,000 a year, according to StatCan.
On average, students work 17 hours per week, said a recent report on non-first year undergraduates found by the Canadian University Survey Consortium. It found one third of upper year undergrads are looking for work and can’t find it. Almost half of students with jobs say it negatively affects their schoolwork. The more hours they work, said the report, the worse their grades become.
Michaela Sam, a student at the University of King’s College, has seen the effects of this across the country, through her work as chairperson of the Nova Scotia branch of the Canadian Federation of Students.
“I know students across the board that have at least two, if not three jobs, that work full-time hours, try to keep up with their studies, that aren’t able to,” said Sam. “That’s hugely problematic because it means our students aren’t able to focus on their education.”
The CFS advocates for lower tuition, more repayable loans and increased public funding, among other solutions.
Matson is taking a general arts degree, but her work for a naturopathic doctor has encouraged her to switch to sciences to eventually become a doctor. Matson wants to attend Simon Fraser University because she said it is has more science courses.
However, the tuition at SFU is higher. The school is a two-hour train ride from her home in Walnut Grove, so she would have to move out. Her family saved using a registered education savings plan, but Matson said she will need a student loan in two years, sooner if she moves.
Her parents, said Matson, “really push me for more higher education.” She works a minimum of 20 hours a week during the semester and bumps that to full time during the break. More scholarships or bursaries would help, said Matson, but for now, she takes a reduced course load and studies in the evenings.
[box type=”info”] An earlier version of this article misspelled Rylie Matson’s name. The article has been updated to reflect the correct spelling.[/box]

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

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