One thing all university students can unanimously agree on is that education is expensive. At the University of Waterloo, tuition for domestic students ranges from $9,000–17,000 for two terms. For international students, it is three times higher. Good education is priceless — however, universities find it really easy to set one.
Expenses don’t stop at tuition. In your first year, there is the cost of residence and meal plans. Then there are the school supplies; depending on your program you may need a fancy calculator, paper, pencils, and other stationery. It is also important to take into account the cost of software programs such as Adobe Creative Cloud, and other expensive technology needed to complete courses. And don’t forget about the beloved textbooks, which range in price from $50 to $300, depending on how many you need. I spent around $150 dollars on textbooks in each of my first two terms. I’m a Global Business and Digital Arts student, so I have to consider the cost of travelling from Waterloo to Stratford in the upcoming years. I would like to think that part of the $14,000 I pay in tuition should cover transit.
University is stressful enough as it is without watching the bills pile up. Every time I log in to view my term balance on Quest, more weight is added to my shoulders. The high cost of university diverts my attention away from my studies and toward answering the questions, “How am I going to afford this?” and “How am I going to pay back my loans?” Some people may argue that because university is expensive, it increases its value, pushing us to work harder. I strongly disagree — since it is so expensive there are more things to think about. I’m not just studying to do well, I’m studying because if I do poorly, I will have lost $2,000 for every bad grade.
Many students have part-time jobs to compensate for high tuition costs. However, students like myself don’t have room in their schedule for a job that would be worthwhile financially. Many of the students who do work either fall behind in their studies or face increased stress, which takes a toll on their mental health and ability to perform academically.
I believe that many universities are classist. I was fortunate enough to be born into a financially stable home; however, this is not the case for many. University is not made for those in lower economic classes. Many people could do well in university and positively affect the world, yet financial status remains a barrier to education. Low-income students may not perform as well as higher-income students in their studies because they may have to balance multiple jobs to fund their studies. Student loans are available as aid for students; however, with current salaries and rates of inflation, those loans will take years to fully pay off. A common argument is that there are plenty of flexible employment opportunities for students. However, I would argue that students shouldn’t have to work long hours while enrolled in full-time education to compensate for the cost of their studies. These students will not have time for a social life or participation in university activities because they have to work or study. Universities need to find better ways to support their low-income students, not only to protect them but to promote equal opportunity.
The cost of a university education makes learning and enjoying school difficult because you’re always thinking about the cost. It turns your life into one big economic decision.
An angry, broke university student