To some people the cost of going to college or university is quite expensive. To others it doesn’t seem so bad. It all depends on where you sit financially.
Many high school students from low-income families often view a post-secondary credential as unaffordable. This in turn leads them to discount the value of going to college or university after high school.
What they do see are the up-front costs associated with tuition, books, moving away from home, etc.
They aren’t able to compute the cost of getting a post-secondary credential against the benefits of a life-time of higher wages and better job security.
They don’t understand that their post high-school job at $10 an hour probably isn’t the best investment for the future.
Some may also fear the debt side of education, where getting a student loan is well beyond their comfort level. Going into debt to the tune of thousands of dollars a year is just too much to handle.
It boils down to a form of financial illiteracy and it can stop young adults from moving forward.
No one is able to convince them how investing in two years of college study, at approximately $12,000 per year—everything accounted for—will give them a credential that will substantially increase their earnings.
From graduation, it is only a matter of time before their student loan is paid off (usually the government forgives a portion of the loan upon graduation) and now they have a better job than before, with more opportunities for advancement.
This picture of going into debt and not working after high school may also not fit well with the expectations of their parents.
And that’s why it’s so hard to show these students the value of getting a post-secondary education.
To help students overcome this financial barrier, work needs to be done earlier, not with just the student but the parents as well.
Students (the younger the better) need to be able to aspire to go to college or university, they need to feel comfortable gathering relevant information and they should talk to their parents about their choices.
Parents, on the other hand, need to support their children as much as possible. If they didn’t have the chance to go to college, they shouldn’t turn that into a reason to stop their children from enrolling.
When graduation looms, both the high school student and the parents need to be clear about the costs associated with getting a credential.
They need to increase their own financial literacy about the various options available, such as grants for students from low-income families, loans, bursaries and scholarships.
All of these can provide funding to help students succeed.
Canada is one of the world’s better nations at removing monetary barriers to post-secondary education, and people should take the time to learn and understand the means and mechanisms available to ensure access to higher education.
It’s in the best interests for all of us—including the government—that young adults have the opportunity to attend college or university and to have some kind of financial security beyond minimum wage.
That’s why we see millions of tax dollars going into post-secondary education and why both the federal and provincial governments provide funding to students.
Jane Muskens is the registrar at Okanagan College.