The student loan dilemma
According to a recent Bank of Montreal survey, 50 per cent of students are choosing student loans as a way to fund their degrees. Of those that take on debt, 58 per cent are expected to graduate owing over $20,000. In 2005 – the most recent date with available data – the average student debt load was $18,800.
Some high school students are avoiding debt by going straight to work – Alberta has the third lowest post–secondary enrollment in Canada.
It’s a difficult choice between taking on debt now to get a degree and getting into a career sooner, or working to save up and starting a career with little to no debt.
I wish it were a question that could be entirely avoided.
It would be great to yell, “Hey, Government of Canada, check out Denmark’s sweet, free education,” unfortunately, student debt loads are looking to get worse, not better.
Choosing to take a gap year between high-school and post-secondary might allow students to save up enough to pay for a few semesters tuition, not to mention the chance to contemplate if their program is really right for them. However, they will likely be making a low wage without experience or a degree to back them.
Jumping in to school and taking the student loan route will allow students into a career field at a much earlier date, and will hopefully allow them to make a much better salary and be much happier than working jobs without any experience or education.
Student loans come with extra pitfalls though – the regular payment schedule and interest can make it a much lengthier and more expensive project than paying upfront.
Personally, I chose the student loan route.
I know I’ll end up paying more in the long run than I would if I had taken time to work and save up, but I didn’t want to take a break from working towards my degree.
I knew if I chose to work, there was a good chance I wouldn’t end up saving as much money as I thought I might, and I might get caught up in working and never go back to school. By taking out loans, I motivated myself to work harder, knowing that my classes were paid for with borrowed money. It’s too soon to say if I’ll regret it or not, but for the moment I’m enjoying the fact that I’ll hopefully be starting in a career soon, while some of my peers who chose to work are struggling to make the leap back into school.
Ultimately, the choice is a personal one – the only thing I can advocate whole-heartedly is that post-secondary is an enriching option for most, and whatever way you choose to get there will probably end up paying off in the long-run.