Did you know that, according to Aide financiÃ¨re aux Ã©tudiants, the age of financial independence from your parents, if you are single, is 37? Somehow, that doesn’t seem right.
The deadline to pay our school fees is fast approaching, and many students are scrambling to get their finances in order to avoid interest fees or penalties. Some students may have to resort to asking the government for help with tuition payments. But, as I learned, financial aid programs and their many conditions for eligibility make it increasingly difficult for needy students to benefit from this option.
Late last semester, it became clear to me I would have a hard time paying my tuition at the end of January. I sought out consultation and help from AFE. They told me that I would not be eligible for financial aid. They said, first of all, that my father should still be supporting me financially despite the fact that I’m 28 years old and have been completely independent from my parents for years. The other reason they gave me was that there was a two-year period in which I did not go to school full time, and that makes me ineligible.
That confused the hell out of me. Yes, there was a period between CEGEP and university in which I took time off from school to travel, but I’ve been back at school full time now for two years, and any money I made during that period is now long gone. AFE policy mandates that if there are two consecutive years during which you did not go to school full time and you are under 37, then you are not eligible.
Last semester, I took four classes and worked 30 hours a week so I could pay my student fees, rent, food, books, utilities and everything else. By the end of the semester, I was burned out. And here I am doing it all over again.
The funny thing is, if I were married and receiving spousal support, I would likely be eligible for financial aid; which is ironic because receiving spousal support would already leave me better off than I am now, and I could get extra money from AFE on top of that. But because I’m single and fending for myself, I can’t get help from the government. That just doesn’t make any sense.
I’m not the only person in this situation. There are about 40,000 students at Concordia, many of them trying as hard as they can to be independent, and some of them, like me, don’t seem to have a choice but to continue to work almost full time while taking four or more classes.
Students in Quebec had an average debt of around $13,000 by graduation time in 2009. Next year, with tuition expected to double, what are people like us going to do? I’ll have no choice but to take more time to finish my degree by reducing the amount of classes I take every semester, and work more. By the time I’m done, I’ll end up paying thousands more for my education.
It’s time for a change of policy at AFE. The current situation only digs the hole deeper for many university students, and with the current economic climate, it makes no sense to push this generation further into debt.