Student Life Uncategorized

Concordia needs to pay attention to graduate students with families

Graduate students with families struggle with finding suitable, affordable housing in Montreal

The lack of affordable housing near Concordia University’s two campuses disproportionally affects graduate students who have families. Rents increase exponentially each year, particularly as developers renovate and convert apartment complexes into high-end luxury condos and apartments.

An article in CBC News shows that, despite the increase in availability of rental apartments in the central part of Montreal in 2020, the average rent went up to $891, 4.2 per cent higher than in 2019. Graduate student families are affected because they cannot share residences, which help other students cut down on rent and other costs. The rising cost of rent in and near downtown has made it very difficult for student families to live there. They end up having to move farther away, thus adding commute time and other considerations.

In addition, most graduate student families, particularly those that are international students, are single-income households or living on financial aid and scholarships. Most international students’ spouses accompany them on a visitor permit or have to wait for work authorizations. Finding jobs is also a difficult task due to the language barrier and lack of access to employment networks and support that are provided to citizens and permanent residents.

Concordia needs to seriously consider providing options for students with families, particularly graduate students, as they are often here for the long-term. While undergraduate housing is available through Grey Nuns and other on-campus residences, there are no such options for graduate students.

Graduate family housing at universities such as the University of Toronto has been very advantageous. These provide opportunities for socialization; particularly important when arriving from a foreign country, for both students and their families. It helps build a social network wherein these families, who understand each other’s challenges, can share helpful advice to navigate everything from university life to healthcare and education for children.

Many newly-arrived graduate student families also lack the required credit checks to get many apartments and thus find themselves in apartments that may not be suitable. International students with families also often end up spending a large amount of money to rent short-term or live in Airbnbs before finding a suitable apartment, as it’s nearly impossible to rent an apartment before being physically present in the city.

Michelle LaSalle, a Concordia Fine Arts Masters student, struggled finding an apartment with a young child, when her son was just three months old. Most families, like LaSalle’s, have a hard time finding landlords who are willing to rent apartments to families with small children, due to noise and other issues, which is also not legally allowed under Quebec’s housing laws. The process of finding an apartment with children is extremely stressful, a point to which this author can also attest to. The process is not only competitive but also involves so much emotional labor with having to convince potential landlords to rent to a family.

I, myself, was declined from even viewing several potential apartments when I mentioned I had children.

Family housing also helps spouses and children who may be isolated to connect with similar families, and can also help facilitate child-care when needed. As both the Concordia subsidized daycares and the Concordia Student Union daycare are located within the university campuses, it helps parents to be located near the daycares. In addition, schools and daycares have very fixed pick-up schedules and require parents to be able to drop anything they are doing to pick up their child in case of an emergency, which necessitates a short commute.

Lindsay Pereira, a senior undergraduate student at Concordia, set to start her Masters in English this fall, has three children and lives in a rented 5 1/2 in LaSalle. She spoke about how the increasing rents are difficult to manage on a single income, especially after she made the decision to return to school after twenty years to complete her undergraduate studies and pursue a Masters.

Pereira says that even though she lives close to downtown, commuting on public transit used to take up so much of her time. With the pandemic and shift to online learning, it has also been more difficult to find a quiet space to study and take classes from home. She would welcome subsidized housing options, particularly near the Loyola campus, with its green, open spaces that are ideal for a family and  the shuttle service that provides an easy and fast commute to the downtown campus.

Pereira ended by saying, “I am grateful that I have a suitable place, but the truth is my reality as a student with children is very different from those who do not, and it is high-time Concordia starts thinking about students with families and their needs, particularly with the financial and other effects of the pandemic.”


Feature photo by Kit Mergaert

Concordia Student Union News

CSU daycare set to open its doors in March

Waiting available as of December, according to CSU coordinator

The Concordia Student Union (CSU) daycare is set to open in March, according to the CSU general coordinator, Omar Riaz.

The daycare, which was first proposed in 2011, will begin construction at 1424 Bishop St. after the building contract is approved at the CSU council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 20.

According to Riaz, the daycare will be able to care for 50 children at a time, and will accommodate newborns and toddlers. There will also be a study space on the upper floor for parents. The waiting list is set to open up sometime in December, Riaz told The Concordian.

Once open, the daycare will be subsidized by the CSU which will bring the cost below the government-subsidized rate of $7 per hour.

According to an article published by The Concordian in February, the daycare was scheduled to open this fall. However, Riaz said difficulties in obtaining construction permits and unanticipated structural work on the partially demolished building delayed the project.

Riaz said the project is still well within its nearly $1.5-million budget. This is despite the partial demolition of the original building having been discovered to cost $15,000 more than anticipated due to an incorrect quote for the project distributed within the CSU, according to an article published by The Link in December 2016.

The project is a welcome addition for many student-parents. While Concordia currently has a daycare located at each campus, the spaces are limited and the waitlists are long. Larissa Buss is an education student who has two sons, aged two years and three months.

She said her oldest son was on the waiting list for Concordia’s daycare service for a year and a half before being admitted. Waiting lists for other daycares are similar. “They tell you, ‘Put your name on the list when you’re pregnant,’” she said.

Like all international student-parents, Buss does not have access to subsidized daycare services. She said daycare services are “absolutely necessary” for any parent who wants to study.

Christine Manendez, who works at the Concordia University Student Parents Centre (CUSP), also testified to the difficulties of being a student-parent. She said Concordia daycare services never returned her call when she was a student-parent. She said many parents delay or forego their education because they lack the time and money.

The idea for the CSU daycare came about as the result of a study commissioned by Concordia in 2011, titled “Student-parents and their children: How can we help them? An analysis of the student-parent experience at Concordia University.” The study found that “many student-parents do not have access to flexible, affordable childcare that would allow them to attend classes,” due to limited daycare spaces and the students’ financial restrictions. Furthermore, the study stated that “student-parents frequently report missing class, missing exams, handing in assignments late and even dropping out because there are simply no timely, safe, flexible, affordable childcare options.”

Although Concordia does not track the number of student-parents currently enrolled, the aforementioned study estimated that student-parents likely represent about 10 per cent of the university’s student population, which is comparable to the national average of 11 per cent.

Photo by Alex Hutchins


Studying while parenting

The Concordia University Student Parents Centre offers a community for student parents

Balancing school work, part-time jobs, family and friends can be a difficult task, especially for parents studying at Concordia who want to achieve their academic goals and support their children.

The Concordia University Student Parents (CUSP) Centre, funded by the Dean of Students Office, offers support and services for parents studying at Concordia.

Some 530 students are registered with CUSP and each day these numbers increase, said CUSP coordinator Sumaiya Gangat.

“The centre is a safe and accessible space where student parents can congregate, voice their concerns, share common interests and develop a support network,” Gangat said.

The centre offers a lounge to student parents, where they can bring their children with them to study, use a computer or take a break. The lounge is catered to fit the needs of both parents and their children.

“The CUSP Centre includes a lounge with couches, a computer lab with Internet access and a play area with books and toys for children, a kitchen and a nursery where mothers can breastfeed their babies or express milk,” Gangat told The Concordian. There is also a corner where children can watch movies.

The CUSP Centre lets parents studying at Concordia know they are not alone, and allows them to interact with other parents who are raising a family while in school, said Gangat.

“CUSP also provides referrals, resources and assistance to student parents pursuing their studies at Concordia,” Gangat said. “The centre helps students locate support services both within Concordia and the Montreal community at large.”

The centre offers a variety of events and programs throughout the year, such as the Free Goods Bazaar, where lightly-used toys are donated to student parents. In addition, CUSP hosts monthly cookouts, where parents can cook together and bring home some of the leftovers from the evening. CUSP also offers activities for Concordia students’ children, such as free art classes.

“The centre is dedicated and continuously working to meet the needs of student parents at Concordia,” Gangat said.

The centre opened in 2009, in response to a growing demand of student parents who asked the university for resources to help them balance school and being a parent.

“We want student parents to know that they are not alone and that Concordia University Student Parent center offers them a community to get involved in.”Gangat said. “We are here to provide students with programs and services and want to ensure that our student parents have  a fulfilling educational experience as possible.”

“Being a parent of two children and trying to support them as well as do well in school can be difficult,” said a Concordia student mom. “Luckily I have a great support system, or else I don’t know how I would do it.”

The Concordia University Student Parents Centre is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The centre is on the Sir George Williams campus at 1410 Guy St., in room 24 on the second floor.

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