Student debt under scrutiny

In News /

By Rosie Kogan

With university tuition fees on the rise, Ryerson and other Ontario universities are participating in a study to uncover what students are spending their money on.

Surveys were distributed to randomly selected students from Ryerson, the University of Toronto, York University, Queen’s University and the University of Western Ontario.  About 1,000 Ryerson students were chosen for the sample.

“The objective of the survey is to get hard date to better understand the financial needs of students,” said Linda Grayson, Ryerson’s v.p. administration and student affairs.  “Up until now, we’ve only had anecdotal information.”

Grayson said the study has “the potential to help us do some wonderful things for our students.”

The financing survey is meant to provide information about the issues facing students and how they manage their costs — including rising tuition.

Last December, the provincial government gave universities the go-ahead to increase tuition fees 20 per cent in the next two years, with 30 per cent of the revenue increase set aside for financial aid.

Ryerson’s board of governors voted in April to increase tuition fees 20 per cent in the next two years, with 30 per cent of the revenue increase set aside for financial aid.

Ryerson’s board of governors voted in April to increase by the maximum amount.  Fees went up by 10 per cent this school year.

The survey asks students to disclose information about their spending and expenses, from the monthly costs of shampoo to expected debts upon graduation.

RyeSAC’s president David Steele said although tuition increases have already been approved the survey will be useful.

“The government does not have statistics on student debt and student financial situations.  The universities are spending sacred money to say, ‘Look, students don’t have money,’” Steele says.

“The survey should also give institutions a good idea of what they can improve on in terms of financial services, including merit-based and need-based scholarship programs and emergency loans.”

Ryerson expects survey results to be ready by early next year.

Erin George, RyeSAC’s v.p. education, hopes the results will provide ammunition to lobby government against future tuition increases.  “Governments and institutions want to increase [tuition] more … hopefully the survey will be sent to a diverse enough group that can give input.”

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