Geting a student loan or scholarship has always been challenging for students.
Paying for tuition has always been challenging for students. Some common options of getting funds are working during summer and/or the school year, applying for a student loan, and getting student funds through school, other institutions or parents. Unfortunately, the pandemic caused a lot of students to lose work opportunities which set some of them back on their tuition savings. However, there are additional grants and student loans offered by institutions to help them get back to school without financial worries. To shine a light on these issues, we discussed ‘Student Funding during COVID’ this week on our Live with Tracey from Bissett Financial Fitness and Suzanne from HigherEdPoints.
What have been the most recent challenges of students?
Some students may not have access to wifi or devices with cameras which prevents them from participating in virtual lectures. Also, students who work to pay for tuition might not be able to attend classes due to their shifts. This is a great setback which can lead to students falling behind in their classes.
Many international students who study in Canada face more stress due to being away from their families and not knowing what they can do to ease their situation. For some students who are transitioning between programs, extending student visas are an important challenge. The closure of Service Canada offices and the increasing funnel of applications lower processing times, pushing the deadlines of getting the right documentation before the school year starts.
Mature students might face greater challenges as they might be balancing work and family responsibilities during school. Dealing with added responsibilities limit their focus on the school material which impacts their learning.
Are there any career and financial resources available to students in schools?
As schools are pivoting to online education, so are their services. Resources such as tutoring, mentoring, writing centres, financial and career advisors are continuing to provide their services through online meetings. In addition to this, these resources are also still available on campus for people who might be seeking a personal one-on-one connection.
The online courses provide a chance to be more interactive and flexible. Instructors can now do more interactive exercises than before by using chat tools. This allows students to ask questions more easily. Also, classes are being recorded and uploaded which provides students who might be working or dealing with responsibilities a chance to go over material they might have missed or not understood.
Aside from the changes in education, funding has also increased for students to take their financial burdens off their shoulders. Schools provide emergency student funds so students in need can get financial relief, work fewer hours and focus more on classes. There are single application systems for scholarships and student loan opportunities where students send only one application and automatically get considered for each added fund. The government has also increased grants and loans available to students.
Recent student aid options in institutions including student loan and scholarship focus on financial need more than merit to help students with limited financial resources continue their education. This is especially beneficial for students whose families might have a middle-income level. These students have limited resources because they are not qualified for low-income funds. Also, they can’t pay for their tuition out of pocket like some students who have higher-income families.
Are there any student aid resources outside of educational institutions?
There is a vast resource of government and private financial aids for student funding which students might be unaware of. The government has increased funding for education. In addition to CERB and CESB, OSAP is giving more grants than the previous years. Also, private institutions have increased resources for student funding. Scholarships Canada has a vast range of scholarship opportunities available for students to apply.
Other than applying for a student loan or grant, there are also alternative methods for student funding. Suzanne’s company HigherEdPoints is partnering with banks and rewards card companies such as TD, CIBC and Aeroplan to provide funds for students. These companies have altered their rewards programs to allow students to redeem points for tuition. Fortunately, anyone’s rewards can be used towards any student’s tuition. Instead of providing cash for points, the points automatically get deposited in monetary value into student’s tuition accounts. This program is available for 150 educational institutions in Canada, leaving no student ineligible.
What advice can we give to students to help them strategize towards their tuition funding?
Be open about your financial situation.
It’s very important to have open conversations about money within the family to know if there are any savings for the child to go to school. If not, approaching the situation together to find strategies will help to have a plan. In order to do this, students need to know your expenses and income resources to create a budget. This will allow them to seek available funds and job opportunities.
If there is a hole in the budget that can’t be fixed, that doesn’t mean students need to give on their plan to obtain higher education. There are always other options such as part-time schooling, finding work, and studying from home. Staying home instead of living on campus can eliminate expenses while keeping you safe during COVID. Also, taking a gap year might benefit some students to save some money and have time to decide on their career path.
Students might not apply for grants, scholarships and student loan opportunities thinking they will not get it. However, this can lead to unused student funding budgets. Speaking to career and financial advisors in schools can inform students and increase their chances of getting funds which can dramatically change their financial situation.
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