Inflationary food, housing and gas prices are putting pressure on university students in Nova Scotia, on top of pre-existing school expenses.
While finishing up their final exams this spring, students were forced to reassess their approaches for the fall, in order to afford to stay in school.
“Cost of groceries is a huge one, cost of gas too. I work outside of the city so having to drive to Bedford and back every day for work and having to pay for gas is kind of a struggle,” said third-year student Rae Nicolas.
Nicolas works two part-time jobs to put herself through university, but next year she said she’ll have to find something closer to home.
“I literally can’t afford to be driving to my current job,” Nicolas said.
She said she also plans on budgeting, taking advantage of the free food programs through school, and grocery subsidies when possible.
Graduate student Xinrui Li said she has to adapt to the high costs.
“I used to live alone, and I was able to afford (it), but with the increase in rent, next year I might consider looking for a roommate,” Li said.
Rising grocery and housing prices have made Li’s life more difficult. She said the stipend she lives on for her master’s degree does not even begin to cover the costs.
“I have to find extra sources of income, and that has definitely put a lot of pressure on, not only me, but I believe a lot of friends that I talk to,” Li said, adding that she has been looking online for jobs and asking friends if they know of any openings.
Li said she tutors on the side and has had to start taking on extra hours, sacrificing leisure time and going out with friends.
Nicolas says she too has had to sacrifice her free time to afford school.
“I’m at school full-time and then having two separate part-time jobs doesn’t leave a ton of time for stuff like studying, stuff like exam prep, so it is stressful,” she said.
In addition to the cost of living, students in Nova Scotia pay the highest tuition fees in the country. According to Statistics Canada, tuition has gone up 15 per cent since 2018.
“On top of having to work and the normal costs of living – paying rent, paying gas, paying groceries and all that — we have to pay so much in tuition in the first place, plus things like textbooks,” Nicolas said.
In response to hiked-up fees, Dalhousie has increased student assistance to 43.1 per cent. But Nicolas says even financial aid like scholarships can add stress.
“I’m on a scholarship, and that’s part of why school is really stressful because it’s not enough to be passing my classes – I have to meet that grade requirement for everything to be able to keep my scholarship,” Nicolas said.
In the last few months, the Dalhousie Student Union food bank has seen more students come out than ever before, according to food bank manager Micha Davies-Cole.
“Predominately we had a really big group of international students but lately we’re getting a lot of domestic students,” Davies-Cole said. “And their stories are all the same, it’s like, ‘I thought I could make it through. I thought I could do this.’”
Davies-Cole said the food bank is seeing an increase in first-time students, which is abnormal for this time of year.
“They’re saying it’s because they just basically ran out of money,” Davies-Cole said. “We’re seeing a lot more of the emergency once or twice usage because their paycheque just cannot make it.”
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