Money & Career

Don't let student debt rule your life

How much did it cost you to go to university? And did you go into debt to get your degree?

Masterfile

How much did it cost you to go to university? And did you go into debt to get your degree? 

I didn’t — but that was nearly two decades ago. Back then, tuition for a full year at the University of Toronto ran me about $1,400 — and by the time I graduated the cost had risen to over $1,700. That amount was manageable for me. I also chose to live at home and worked part-time throughout the school year. During summers, I signed up with a temp agency that would get me a decently paid office job (reception, filing) to sock away extra money for the year. Years ago, I could manage to pay for tuition, books, and transportation — and I still had enough left over to travel once in awhile. 
Today there is a lot more pressure to take on debt. Students now face huge costs — according to Statistics Canada, the class of 2005 graduated with average student loans of $18,800. That number has probably risen since then — this article breaks down the costs for one student at Queen’s University in Ontario who says that her total expenses for one year alone will be over $23,000! Multiply that by four years — who can afford that?

However, there are ways to lighten the debt load — all it takes is a bit of planning and thinking about what your goals are. 

One way to seriously reduce costs is to live at home. Sure, the pressure is on to go away to school — but if you live close to a good school, then living at home is a great option. It worked for me — besides, I was so busy that I was barely home anyway. 
Also, think about working throughout the year. I actually had a couple of part-time jobs while I was at university. Having a job gives you a lesson you’ll never learn from books: how to survive in a workplace. It also set me up with contacts and experience I used to find a job when I graduated. 
Plan on getting a scholarship. Sure, it might seem out of reach, but there are a lot of grants and funding sources out there — it might not pay your entire way, but every little bit counts. You just need to do your research. 
Finally, debt might be inevitable — but you don’t have to spend years trying to pay it off. If you graduate with debt, it is possible to pay it off fast. Read this story from money blogger Squawkfox — Kerry actually paid off her entire debt load within six months of graduating (and she owed $17,000!). My main message here — plan ahead, make smart choices and don’t let student debt hold you back in life.