The cost of a post-secondary education can be a stressful burden facing first-year students. (Contributed)

Grants ease post-secondary fiscal stress facing Kelowna students

Knowledge First Financial gives out $1.5 million to first-year students across Canada, with 67 recipients in Kelowna

Canada’s largest RESP provider has offered an incentive to recognize the financial stress of seeking a post-secondary education.

Knowledge First Financial has distributed more than $1.5 million to over 15,000 students to help navigate their first year in the post-secondary education world, including 67 students in Kelowna.

Carrie Russell, president and CEO of Knowledge First, said the gesture is a reflection of the fiscal realities of pursuing a post-secondary education.

“One of the things we are all incredibly aware is the cost of a four-year post-secondary education in Canada is on average about $100,000. In B.C., that figure is closer to $90,000,” Russell said.

“That figure does get knocked down a bit, at about a half, if you are able to live at home while going to university.”

Further complicating that financial scenario, Russell added, was the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has cut off the opportunity for many students to find part-time jobs in the tourism or service industry sectors to help off-set education and living expenses while going to college or university.

READ MORE: Easing post-secondary tuition costs

Kendra Nielsen, 21, is a Salmon Arm native who lives in Kelowna and attends Okanagan College. Her husband attends UBC Okanagan. She is one of the 67 Kelowna recipients of the Knowledge First grants.

Nielsen said finding a job last summer due to COVID was difficult, and is hoping their job prospects will improve this coming summer.

Russell stated a recent survey found 61 per cent of parents said that their child’s stress levels have increased since the start of the pandemic and 34 per cent of parents said that COVID-19 has negatively impacted their ability to pay for their child’s post-secondary education.

“Those stresses fall in three places. One is not having clarity on their path to finding work, how to get a job, with their post-secondary degree. There is also the matter of internships and co-op opportunities being curtailed because of the impact of COVID.

“The second thing is having the mental resiliency and mental strength to cope with the social isolation that comes with getting through COVID and dealing with stressful academic challenges.

“And the third thing is about the financial literacy aspect, having the preparedness to know how to set up a personal budget and plan for unexpected expenses or to try and save money.”

Russell noted students often face having a reliance on student loans, but after graduation it takes so long to pay them off it interrupts the pathway to personal financial milestones such as buying a car or a home.

“For many those milestones would have occurred much sooner had they not had the burden of student loans to pay off,” shes said.

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