Debt is a growing concern for Rachel Dalton.
By the time the 34-year-old Vancouver Island University student finishes her bachelor of business administration degree in December, she expects that between her and husband Andrew, who just finished his master’s degree in arts and history from the University of Alberta, they will have racked up about $150,000 in student loans.
While doing well in school is a major concern for Dalton, the mother of three stresses out more about her financial situation and putting food on the table.
“Am I going to be able to pay my mortgage?” she asked. “That comes before my grades. You need to worry about eating before you worry about studying time. Otherwise we wouldn’t have part-time jobs. I know some students who have had to drop out because they can’t afford [to pay for school].”
She attends VIU full-time and also holds down a part-time job. Her husband always had at least two part-time jobs while he was completing his masters degree – he is now tending bar full time while he looks for a research position.
A recent Bank of Montreal survey found that students are more stressed out about paying for school than achieving academic success.
The survey found that 27 per cent are stressed about paying for school, 22 per cent were most worried about finding a job after graduation and 20 per cent were most anxious about achieving success academically.
Steve Beasley, executive director of the VIU Students’ Union, said students who attend VIU tend to be disproportionately cost-sensitive compared with larger universities in big city centres.
“A larger proportion of the population at VIU is sensitive to price and that drives their decision to study in their home community,” he said.
The Canadian Federation of Students estimates the average student loan debt load when graduating from a post-secondary institution in B.C. is about $27,000.
With compound interest over a 10-year repayment period, that figure rises to $34,000.
Beasley said academic success and financial burden are inherently tied – if a student does not have enough money to pay for university and living expenses, the student must work and the more time spent working, the less time is available for doing school work.
Even when it appears someone has left school because of bad grades, he said financial woes are often the root problem.