Summer jobs fail to fill fee-debt gap

July 10, 1998

CANADIAN students used to be able to pay for a year's study with the earnings from a summer of working. But higher tuition fees, low- or no-wage internships and high summer unemployment figures have hit their earnings.

Recent unemployment statistics point to a difficult situation for the average university student. In May, the unemployment rate for 20 to 24-year-olds was 17.2 per cent and last summer, 19.7 per cent of those between 15 and 24-years-old were looking for work.

One study found that in the 1990s young people lost 500,000 jobs, out of the entire working-age population of 17 million. Add to that the findings that the average student in this country is looking at a Can$25,000 (Pounds 10,500) debt in government loans on graduation.

Elizabeth Carlyle, chair of the Canadian Federation of Students, warned: "Until the federal government addresses the jobs issue, students will remain in the vicious cycle of student debt. Students who cannot find summer jobs will not be able to afford post-secondary education next September. And even those who do find summer employment will not be able to save enough money for tuition fees, let alone living expenses."

She cited a study by Winnipeg student Chris Dooley that calculates a student has to work for 420 hours full-time on the minimum wage each summer to pay for the average undergraduate year of study. This is 200 hours more than ten years ago.

Anna Kapinieris, spokeswoman for the ministry of human resources development, said she is dismayed over the nagging student employment problem. "Unemployment in Canada in general is going down. You would think that with the adult employment situation getting better the student employment rate would also improve."

She said that 12 government departments have been working together on a youth employment strategy with success.

February's federal budget adopted tax policies and announced a scholarship fund to start in 2000 to tackle student poverty and debt.

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