Schools Look To Lessen Student Stress Over Debtloads

2016-06-10   minute read

Grant Bazian

Lifestyle Debt

MNP's TAKE: As the price of post-secondary education continues to rise, along with cost of living, many students find themselves struggling financially both during the course of their studies and upon entering a very competitive job market upon graduation. 

Thousands of students are left carrying significant debt loads with little to no preparation in terms of how to manage debt payments alongside day-to-day living expenses. Meeting with a financial advisor can be an integral first step in helping you assess your unique personal situation so you can develop a budget and plan that allows you to stay on track with your career goals and financial objectives, while also leaving room for you to manage your regular monthly expenses. Many post-secondary institutions have student financial services resources who can help you begin the process of planning and budgeting for a healthy financial future. If you have a loan through your provincial or federal government, the Government of Canada site provides information as to who you can get in contact with in your region in order to discuss feasible payment arrangements. 

If you are experiencing anxiety, depression or other mental health related concerns surrounding your debt, do not hesitate to reach out to the personal student resource centre within your school or contact a a mental health professional within your community. It's important to know that you are not alone and there are resources available to help you manage your personal well-being while you devise a plan to get back on track for a fresh financial start. 

If student debt has already taken its hold and you are struggling to keep afloat, you have options. Contact Grant Bazian, CIRP, President of MNP Ltd. at 778.374.2108 or [email protected] to discuss what debt solutions may be available to you.

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TORONTO - Many of this year's new post-secondary graduates have left the academic world carrying tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Meantime, those heading to college and university this fall will soon contend with steep tuition rates that often result in a similar burden.

While schools attempt to lessen the load by offering financial aid, average student debt appears to be climbing. So some institutions are also responding by beefing up their mental health services to help students cope with life in the red.

"We're worried about one type of debt — student debt — and we want to know how to pay it off as quickly as possible," said Dillon Collet, who is about to enter his final year at the University of Toronto's faculty of law and sat on the dean's advisory committee on financial aid.

The committee organized a financial aid workshop that discussed the psychology of debt. It was well-attended, Collet said, with about 60 students in the room and a lineup outside.

The committee's student representatives also pushed to have tuition fees — and their connection to student stress — to be discussed at the faculty council's meeting each year, Collet said.

"A lot of students suffer silently."

Estimates suggest average student debt in Canada is past the $25,000 mark.

In 2013-14, graduates finished school with an average of $12,480 in federal loan debt, according to numbers from the Canada Student Loans Program.

However, that figure doesn't include provincial or private loans. An Ontario student graduating from a four-year university program, for example, shouldered an average of $22,207 in provincial debt in 2012-2013. That makes for a total debtload of more than $34,000 if they also borrowed the average sum from the federal government.

The Canadian Univer sity Survey Consortium surveyed more than 18,000 graduating university students from 36 Canadian universities for its 2015 annual report. The average debt-ridden student owed $26,819.

Such a debt load can have an impact on a student or graduate's mental health, though only a small amount of published research exists on the apparent link.

A 2015 journal paper analyzed data from a U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics survey of more than 8,000 youth in the United States — where tuition fees are significantly higher than in Canada — to determine if debtload and psychological well-being were connected.

"Students who took out more student loans were more likely to report poor mental health in early adulthood," said one of the paper's authors, Katrina M. Walsemann, an associate professor at the University of South Carolina.

Canadian experts have also noticed a link, even though Canadian students don't generally go into as much debt as their American cohorts.

Jillian Yeung Do, York University's director of student financial services, witnessed it while working with a student. While she couldn't provide much detail for privacy reasons, she said she became really concerned about a student.

"After that encounter, I decided that it would be a good idea to — for myself, personally, and as well for the entire team — to be trained in having these conversations with students," she said.

The university's health educator taught the financial services staff how to identify students in distress, listen to them and provide proper referrals. York University also plans to launch a new financial literacy campaign soon, she said.

The University of Toronto's faculty of law staff, including its financial aid workers, will also have training on mental health issues next month, said Alexis Archbold, the assistant dean of the JD (juris doctor) program. She's also the chair of the dean's advisory committee on mental health and wellness, formed t his past academic year.

Archbold and the committee spent the year listening to students' primary concerns. Unsurprisingly for a professional program, she said, high tuition and the anxiety of the corresponding debtload emerged as one of the common themes.

The school's new academic, personal and wellness co-ordinator will work with Archbold this summer to develop a wellness strategy, she said.

The committee will continue to hear from students on how to improve the strategy, which seems to fall in line with at least some of what the students want.

"We want a platform in which we can engage with the faculty and the administration," said Collett, "and we can really talk about the nuts and bolts."


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This article was written by The Canadian Press and Aleksandra Sagan from The Canadian Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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