Expensive finals burden students

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By Nicole Siena

Fourth-year students in the Faculty of Communication and Design (FCAD) push their individual and financial limits in order to complete their final year projects.

Programs such as film, new media and fashion have final year exhibits where they can showcase their projects.

It is considered an opportunity to show off their work, while gaining exposure from the event, much of which is from industry professionals and PR.

Hillary Sampliner, a recent graduate of the fashion design program, and 2010 participant in Mass Exodus had one of the most expensive collections.

Her total project, including testing, promotions, press packages, and fabrics cost between $7000 and $8000.

“I guess I’m a crazy artist type,” she said.

“I did everything to execute my vision.”

But not all students have the money to finance such projects.

Leks Raamat, a third year theatre production student decided to take this past year off to make money for his project.

During his year off, Raamat still won’t make as much as some students spend on their thesis.

Raamat said he often invests as little as $10 into projects but as much as $300. Combined with tuition costs, 14 hour days, and what Raamat calls “educationally related expenses”, money was getting tight.

“I often couldn’t bring more than one meal, plus all my supplies, plus deal with transportation,” he said. “I could have gone into fourth year but I would have felt guilty buying a meal.”

Zack Bernbaum, a graduate of the film program set the bar two years ago when he spent $100,000 on his thesis film.

Although Bernbaum found private investors to finance the film, he still spent thousands of dollars on festival submissions, applications and investor packages. He feels the costs were justified. “I know it’s crazy, but if that’s what you need to tell your story, then that’s what you need,” he said.

But even relatively modest financial costs can be a burden for the less financially-secure.

Erin Kjaer, a member of last years META curation team found it hard to afford the $200 donation curators are encouraged to make towards the exhibit.

“I felt like I let some of my group members down,” she said.

“We’re not all rolling in dough, but people with commitment will find ways to make up for it.”

Instead of paying, Kjaer created the exhibition catalogue once the exhibit was over.

“It didn’t count towards anything, but it made up for what I lacked in my financial contribution,” she said.

According to Sampliner, instructors tell students early on what sort of financial commitment could be required of them.

“I spend the money because I want to be a successful designer,” said Raamat.

Ryerson instructors and professors make a point of telling students about the financial commitments in each program, according to Sampliner, and most of her classmates are willing to make the sacrifice.

“If you’re crazy passionate about it, you’re not going to eat for a couple of days in order to get that extra piece of fabric,” she said. “But everyone is pretty prepared to be poor and sleep-deprived.”

Max Lawlor, second-year film student, thinks students create the disparity within programs themselves.

“We are provided with a baseline which is enough to do the assignment, everything above that is extra,” he said.

Lawlor suggested that there should be a cap on what students can spend in the film program.

“It affects fairness, financial contributors, and assessment,” he said.

Alexandra Anderson, the Interim Chair for the School of Image Arts, agreed that this is a huge issue, but said that there are existing budget restrictions in the film program.

Students are given a guideline of $5000, but instructors can’t stop students from using the additional resources they have available to them.

But more expensive project  doesn’t always mean they’re better.

“I’m confident in saying it’s not the most costly project that is the most successful,” said Anderson.

Anderson said that students are made aware of potential costs in first-year, and that instructors do provide additional support to students.

Some instructors might give tips on how to save money but, “they don’t provide [students] with alternatives or resources,” said Lawlor.

But Sampliner does not feel that she was adequately supported by her instructors when it came to tracking down funds.

She wasn’t even told where she could find cheaper fabric.

“Having access to that information would have saved me $2000 easily,” said Sampliner.

But in spite of the financial strain, many students in FCAD seem driven by their passion for their programs to get things done.

“Some people plan a project around financial limitations,” said Lawlor.

“It involves reforming content and working around it.”

“I had a shitty apartment, was starving and sewing the most expensive materials in the world. When you have a vision you pour everything into it,” said Sampliner.

“I put everything on the line.”


  1. As long as the amount of money put into the final project does not affect the evaluation of it I dont see a problem. Students want to put what they can into an industry event that could make or break their Post University career. There is both risk and opportunity in these investments and i think it is 100% a personal decision.

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