Financial Aid: The Middle-class Always Get Screwed

I have discovered that I attend a very smart university institution. I came to this conclusion without examining the facilities, quality of teaching, or measuring available resources. I drew this simple conclusion by the fact that my school has managed to increase tuition by six hundred dollars in the last three years without anyone noticing. Six hundred dollars! Thats over half a thousand dollars (meaning more than a course for 1 term); making my annual university tuition a whopping $6212.88 (this is the first year it has hit the six-thousand range) for 8 months of university education, not including books (which generally total $1000, even when buying used copies) or travel expenses ($324/mos, or $2592 per school year).

With my total costs for the year hitting almost ten-thousand dollars ($9,804.88, to be exact), you can’t imagine how much I am peeing my pants. And my school is getting even smarter: in recognition that students are having a harder time paying school fees, the university now expects you to pay a minimum deposit well before classes start in order to register. “Minimum deposit isn’t so bad!” you think to yourself indignantly. No, no – wait for it – my educational institution’s conception of “minimum deposit” is 65% of the total tuition cost. This means I have to come up with $4038.32 to simply register – and the real kicker is, I have only one month to come up with this money. One month.

Now, I don’t know how this works at other universities but I respect the fact that a lot of other students are in the same position. If I may be so bold to say, however, I think it is the OSAP-ineligible kids that are really in the hot seat. Now please, don’t get your knickers in a twist: in no way am I implying that those who receive OSAP are not in dire enough conditions to deserve the loan – undoubtedly, they receive OSAP to get them out of the hot seat. But for someone like myself, who has been labeled as “middle-class”, I’m finding funding to be a difficult task.

I come from a family of five. My father is the only one who works, but he works hard and brings home enough money to make me OSAP-ineligible. Despite this, my family does have to budget our money and worry about how to pay for university tuition. With expenses and dealing with the aftermath of a poor recession, I consider myself to be in financial need: I don’t have the money to pay for my tuition, and a loan would be very helpful.

In addition, both my parents are in their early fifties, and I have two younger siblings who have not yet hit university (one is just entering high school!),which means that saving up for the other two kids’ tuition (and their potential university expenses increased due to being out-of-town) can be daunting – and worse, it is a plight that isn’t really acknowledged by OSAP. The best OSAP can accommodate you is if you have siblings currently in university – but what about those yet to attend? This is just one example of a looming problem for the middle-class kid – and with my brother about to enter university in one year, I’m trying to find a way to save my parents some money.

I have always been raised to believe that rewards are based on merit – and that if you work hard, you can be rewarded for that work. Unfortunately, being OSAP-ineligible also makes me ineligible for several scholarships – which cite academic achievement as well as financial need as qualifying criteria. Without OSAP, the number of scholarships I can apply to are few and far between – even if I am academically competitive for need-based awards. Again, let me clarify: need-based awards are very important, and should be set-up especially for those whose financial situation is dire. In no way am I saying there should not be need-based awards, nor am I saying everyone should have access to them.

All I am saying is, the concept of financial need should not be solely based on OSAP eligibility. The fact that I don’t receive a loan doesn’t mean I have loads of dough in the bank: I have to work three part-time jobs in order to ensure I don’t graduate with a forty-thousand dollar debt! I think it is unfair that if I fall out of OSAP’s definition of “need”, I am automatically considered to be someone not in need. I would rather sit and write down my expenses verses my income, and have a scholarship team see where and how the money would be use, than simply be shut out from even the potential for applying.

I recognize I am blessed to have a working parent, and I don’t discredit how many others may not be as fortunate. But I also realize that I must fund my university like every other student, and if the province doesn’t recognize my need for financial aid, I will have to get out and hustle…

Anyone else in the same middle-class position?

Surviving Studenthood

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2 responses

  1. I was in the same situation too and because I didn’t have enough money, I had to defer my entry at U of T!! School couldn’t help me or should I say “won’t” help and government thinks I’m rich enough to pay for tuition 😦 I was pretty much screwed and so I’m now working to see if I can get enough to pay the minimum deposit, which I agree, is ridiculously high! But I’m sure all schools are like that. If only tuition wasn’t so expensive!!!

    1. Hey Meimei!

      So glad to have you comment on our blog.

      Tuition seems to be a HUGE problem for students – it is one of the biggest costs for students, and Ontario students have it the worst in Canada. I guess part of being a member of the Canadian Federation of Students (an automatic membership for every student) allows us to gather in large groups to protest the fees. I am not sure how effective that is, but at least their is an option for agency…

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