Wednesday, 16 September 2015 16:47

Medicine Hat College trying to help with costs of going to school

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According to news agency CNW, the Canadian Federation of Students are pointing to an annual university and post-secondary tuition fee report released by Statistics Canada which says tuition and education costs are fluctuating in an unpredictably high manner.

In the CNW  report, Canada’s largest student organization “notes the average undergraduate tuition fees have now surpassed $6,000, an annual increase of 3.2 per cent. In polling conducted for the Canadian Federation of Students by Abacus Data and MediaStyle, 85 per cent of Canadians opposed increased in tuition fees and 82 per cent believe that young people have to take on too much debt today to get a university or college education.”
While the report represented a national viewpoint, it seems the fluctuating economy has been noticeable in southeastern Alberta as well.
Connie Cash, who works with scholarships, bursaries and loans in the financial aid office in the Medicine Hat College’s business office is usually somewhat busy, later on in the first semester, not a few days in to the semester. Cash had seven consultations within three days of each other.
“I have never seen this earlier in the year with people with financial issues, this soon,” explains Cash. “Usually it’s when winter comes it’s a situation where people run out of money. A huge difference this year ... the winter semester comes up and they don’t have enough to finish the year. We’ve barely got into the year (period).”
Cash says those who have already requested help are regular students who are finding tuition and living expenses are too much, didn’t earn enough money during the summer or didn’t get as much for a student loan as they wanted or needed.
There are also the older, mature students who are sometimes unaware of how much money it takes to go to school, or else have a family to support in the process or who got recently laid off from their full-time jobs and looking for re-training.
“It's an even mix of both (newer and more mature students),” explains Cash who says the economy has been the biggest factor in the dramatic increase in requests for help or advice.
Cash explains she or one of the three people within her financial aid department will interview a client to best determine the problem and try to come up with viable options and perhaps a budget plan for the future.
For example, Cash says the way student loans are paid out is 60-40 (fall versus winter payouts). Sometimes a student will spend more than what he or she should in the fall and then be short cash in the winter.
The financial aid department will try to counsel students as how to best to handle their situations.
Cash says sometimes it’s a tuition payment plan issue and they can help spread out the payments.
Tuition and other essential expenses at Medicine Hat College will vary depending on course. For example, some of the third-year courses for the diplomas  such as Addictions Counselling Diploma Year 3 ($1,897.80) and Addictions Counselling/Social Work Combined Diploma Year 3 cost ($3,963.74) are relatively inexpensive.
At the high end of the spectrum the Power Engineering Technology Diploma Year 1 costs breaks down like this: $6,084 — tuition; Student Association fees — $296.40; NISF fees — $270.40; additional expenses — $734.50; books and supplies — $4,115.71 and health and dental bringing it to a total of $11,864. In a quick look most programs’ total costs run in the $5,000-6,500 range.
Cash adds the college does have access to emergency help if that is deemed necessary or they can also direct them to the college’s Students’ Association.
“That’s the great thing about a smaller institution like Medicine Hat College as opposed to a bigger university. We can help like this,” Cash explains. “We will do whatever we can to keep the person in school. If it’s too big of a burden and it’s just not the right time for them to take classes then fine ... sometimes someone just gets hit by something out of nowhere.”
According to college officials, tuition and fees are approved by the Medicine Hat College Board of Governors and are set in accordance with Tuition Fee guidelines established by the Alberta Government.

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor