Difficult but not impossible

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You can get through university debt-free.

Mind you, it’s more difficult than you can imagine. True, we all hear the horror stories of how expensive education and the cost of living is in this city and how students are at an incredible disadvantage when it comes to accessing education because of these barriers.

These are all valid concerns – ones we should be presenting to the government – but what about those students who, through some miracle, manage to find a house and make it into university. How can they stay there without digging themselves into a never-ending hole of debt?

It’s not easy, but it can be done.

First, you have to pick a program that no one else is in. You need to carve a path for yourself that sets you off from the rest. Sure, your parents and advisors will say to you, “Oh a business degree is far more useful than that namby-pamby bachelor of arts in film studies.”

Sure, they could be right. But when it comes down to it, there are an exponentially larger amount of business studies than there are film studies students. I should know; I am one of two people in my year, and one of maybe half a dozen in my entire program. How many marketing students are there? Human resources? I’m willing to bet a whole lot more than in my program.

And once you’re in that program, you’re basically set to rake in all of the scholarships directed specifically at your program, as long as you’re willing to do the work. There aren’t a lot of film studies scholarships, or a lot of scholarships for anyone in fine arts, really, but if you work your ass off and get yourself even close to the top – which really isn’t all that hard if there’s only a handful of you in your program – you can collect a couple thousand dollars a year easily. If you play your cards right and manage to make dean’s list every semester, this can pay for most, if not all, of your tuition.

Then comes the problem of cost of living. How do you manage to pay rent, buy food, pay your utilities bills, and pay for transportation for four years without taking out a loan? The first thing you can do is move back home during the summer. Sure, it seems like a pain in the ass, but you can live rent-free for four months. Jobs might not pay as well back home if you’re from a small town, but if you spend wisely, save most of it, and work as much overtime as you can, you can manage to store away enough to cover almost the rest of your fees.

But even moving home for the summer doesn’t quite do it. You’ll have to drop your car and take the bus. Or better yet, walk to school. It will save you thousands of dollars a year. You will also have to pick up a part-time job for at least half of your four-year degree. And it has to be a four-year degree, which means taking five classes a semester and working part-time. It seems like a lot of work, but it’s simple economics: the longer your degree takes, the more money you’re going to sink into costs of living. So minimize the time you’re here, and in the long run, you won’t be paying as much for your education.

Now, I realize this isn’t doable for everyone. Only a very small minority of students will be able to through school debt-free, and my plan is a very specific set of circumstances that is only available to the select few. You might not be able to go debt-free, but at the very least, you may be able to minimize your debt and leave university with a slightly lesser burden to bear.

Jonathan Petrychyn
A&C Editor

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