Get the most out of your post-secondary experience for less
It is no secret that university and college students in Canada pay a lot of money for tuition. The average university tuition in 2017-2018 was $6,571, though costs vary depending on the program, school and education level. Plus, tuition fees at Canadian universities and colleges increase annually. Tuition for my Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences degree at the University of Guelph was just under $4,000 per semester.
Fortunately there are various ways to minimize tuition fees and large amounts of student debt. Students can take advantage of the financial support available via their school, community and government. Here are some simple hacks to reduce tuition, and stress, from here on out.
Scholarships are usually the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about reducing tuition. Schools generally have different types of scholarships available to accommodate students with different talents and skills. Entrance scholarships are awarded to students with application averages over 80, and the amount earned increases in $500 increments every 5 per cent. Generally, entrance scholarships are “renewable” if your GPA stays above 80 per cent. The school will recalculate your scholarship based on your grades at the end of each school year.
But tough first year classes can drive students’ grades well below what they were in high school. This is where in-course scholarships come in. Students can apply for scholarships before the beginning of each semester, generally in May for the Fall semester and in October for the Winter semester. Some scholarships are only open to students with financial need, while others are open to non-OSAP students. Applications generally require a short letter or an essay. Some scholarships, such as for getting the highest grade on the final essay for a certain course, don’t require applications. Scholarships are especially worthwhile for students with high grades or dedication or extracurriculars. Try searching for scholarships open to your program or major.
OSAP can be both a blessing and a curse. You get some money in your pocket at the start of each semester, but a good portion will need to be repaid. OSAP provides two types of funding: loans, which need to be repaid after graduation, and grants, which are yours for keeps. While you have little control over your OSAP funding besides providing an error-free application, you can maximize funding through grants.
Students in a full course load are eligible for the Full-Time Students grant (maximum $4,500 per year). Mature full-time students who have been out of school and in the workforce for over 10 years are eligible for the Skills Boost Top-Up grant (maximum $2,4000 per year). Full-time students with dependants can get monthly funding per each child (maximum $200 per child per month). Part-time students are also eligible for grants.
One little-known grant is the Canada Student Grant for Persons with Permanent Disabilities. If you have a physical or mental disability, be sure to get the proper documentation from your doctor to your school and you can receive up to $2000 per year.
It’s also important to note that you can reduce student debt later on by rejecting loans to only claim grants if you can pay the rest of your tuition out-of-pocket. Always use online tools to calculate financial aid estimates before the start of each study period.
Bursaries are similar to scholarships — students receive funding according to their financial need, usually based on their citizenship, OSAP application and course load, and not based on academic or extracurricular achievement. The application process is much simpler for bursaries than for scholarships — it usually involves filling out a short form for smaller bursaries. Many students are unaware of how much aid schools and donors have set aside for students, so chances are you can get a few hundred dollars if you have demonstrated financial need on OSAP.
If you have spare time and energy, work-study jobs are a great way to make money towards paying tuition. Many schools offer a type of bursary where students with financial need can apply for part-time jobs. Opportunities range from on-campus food service to lab support and office positions. Work-study jobs also provide valuable work experience for future job searches.
Some organizations are compensated through government funding for hiring post-secondary students. Check with local organizations or companies and you might just find an arrangement that will help both your career and your finances.
Who doesn’t love a good tax refund? Students can get a lot out of their tax returns. Most students are aware that they can claim their tuition fees in their taxes, namely through the T2202A form. But you can also claim other costs associated with school. According to TurboTax, “Full-time students may claim $400 per month for their education amount and an additional $65 per month for their textbook amount. Part-time students may claim $120 and $20 per month respectively.” Make sure you keep your receipts or have access to your spending activity online. Students can also deduct child-care costs from their employment income and moving expenses from their scholarship or grant income.
Getting through post-secondary studies and the costs associated with it can be very tough, but students have several options to minimize tuition costs throughout their academic careers. Looking for more tips? Read our 6 Ways to Make and Save Money While in School.