Too Poor for University, Too Rich for Financial Aid

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Ah, you’re stuck in the middle, stuck between a rock and a hard place. You’re too poor for university, but you’re too rich for financial aid. This problem is plaguing millions of students and families across Canada, and throughout the world. This problem is due to a combination of issues; rising university costs, smaller amounts of financial aid available, and difficult financial aid calculations that put the burden of paying for college on parents that can’t afford it.

Too poor for university… Your university experience starts with joy! You get accepted into your ideal university and you’re so excited to be able to pursue your dreams. Then the acceptance package comes and you see the cost. Your heart sinks. Sure, you may have received that thousand dollar entrance award, but that hardly covers 1/10th of the cost after residence and meal plans. What’s a family or student to do? If you take out student loans, you’ll have close to $40,000 in debt when you graduate, which is outrageous. This is what makes students families too poor for university.

Too Rich For Financial Aid… On the flip side, families in this situation are too rich for financial aid. Most financial aid is based on the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which is then used to calculate the Expected Family Contribution. This is essentially how much the government thinks that families can afford to pay for their child’s university education. Who says parents are even contributing? And who says the family does not have other expenses, like mortgages, car payments, and retirement savings? This is what makes families too rich for financial aid.

To avoid falling into this trap, there are several steps that you can take right now. You need to start applying for financial aid early, and look for non-need based financial aid, such as scholarships and grants. Since many grants are for less than $1,000, if you start early and apply to different grants often, you can amass a nice sum! Check out scholarship pages like Yconic and Scholarships Canada, these sites offer millions of dollars annually to students and sometimes it only takes an hour of work to apply! Additionally, working part-time can help with the burden of tuition costs and student loans. An extra $100 a week can even make a dent in your loans or daily living costs. Check out SMUworks student employment for job opportunities on campus, and make sure you sign up for HireSMU for all of the most up-to-date jobs on campus. Best of luck.

Kala Rafuse

Financial Aid & Awards

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