OUSA is back on the road again, on our way to Queen’s after a full day at Western, including a town hall on OSAP, a presentation to the University Student’s Council, and meetings with administration, campus media and some esteemed OUSA alumni. Since I’m sitting alone in the back of the car as punishment for being slightly late this morning, it is a great opportunity to read the study released today by the Labour Statistics Division of Statistics Canada highlighting new figures for student employment while they are studying.
The report finds that 45% of post-secondary students worked during the 2009-10 academic year, slightly down for the pre-recession level of 48% in 2007-08. The average employed student worked 15.6 hours a week for total earnings of $6,300. While it is encouraging that the job market seems to be rebounding somewhat and that students who need work have had their average earnings edge back up to pre-recession levels, it is still a worrying trend that students are increasingly having to rely on working through the school year to finance their education. The Statistics Canada study shows that employment has risen from 27% in 1976 and 35% in 1986 to the high of 48% in 2007.
Tuition and compulsory ancillary fees in Ontario averaged above $7,000 for the first time this year, and the TD Bank estimates the average Ontario student living away from home needs over $21,000 to complete one year of undergraduate education. Contrast these costs to the results of the 2009 Canadian Student Survey which found that Ontario university students earned an average of just $3,000 in the summer and were able to save only $1,200. The same survey found that 58 per cent of students were concerned about having sufficient funds to complete their degree. So, it is unsurprising that almost half of students feel the need to seek employment through the academic year.
What’s concerning though is that students working in school has been found by the Canadian University Survey Consortium, the Youth in Transition Survey and Prairie Research Associates to have a negative impact on students’ grades and student retention past first year. This is not news to the thousands of students who have struggled to balance academic commitments of studying, assignments and readings with their part-time job.
The Ontario government should be commended for increasing the availability and value of loans and grants in recent years. However, student costs are increasing at an even faster rate, and attention must be paid to ensure that the financial barrier to persisting and succeeding in post-secondary education does not continue to increase.
- Sam Andrey, Director of Research & Policy Analysis