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Young people look for jobs at a summer employment centre in Toronto. (The Globe and Mail/Fred Lum)
Young people look for jobs at a summer employment centre in Toronto. (The Globe and Mail/Fred Lum)

Are summer wages enough for students? Add to ...

It’s halfway through summer, a make-or-break time for students trying to earn enough money for the upcoming school year.

While June’s unemployment rate for students aged 15 to 24 was high at 14.8 per cent, that’s actually better than a decade ago, when student unemployment was at 18.6 per cent.

Still, there are a lot of students scrambling for jobs, and the employment numbers don’t tell us how much students are making, or whether their earnings will cover expenses. Undergraduate tuition averaged $5,366 a year in 2011-2012, and that’s not including books or living expenses.

The Globe and Mail did a survey of student readers, asking whether they thought their earnings would cover their expenses for the school year. Of more than 150 respondents, 87 per cent said they had found a summer job, and 13 per cent said they were unemployed. Here’s what some of them had to say about how they expect to make ends meet with their summer savings.

Brittney Bowen, 18, Toronto, Ont.

I work part-time, 10 to 20 hours a week, and I am only making minimum wage. I have applied for OSAP again and last year received approximately $12,000, about 60 per cent of which was in loans and the rest was grants. I’m hoping to receive at least the same amount or more. Without a doubt, I expect to graduate with debt – at least $35,000 in student loans. I am trying very hard to avoid credit card debt but it is becoming increasingly difficult, because certain items must be paid for by a certain date and money is not always readily available.

Trevor Donald, 27, Banff, Alta.

I am working for Parks Canada as a bear guardian in Banff National Park. I work full-time at $17.40 an hour. Because of the high cost of living in Banff, I may be only able to cover one semester at Mount Allison University. I expect to graduate owing over $55,000. In addition, I owe over $4,000 in interest and penalties to the Province of New Brunswick, and to Revenue Canada for defaulting on my student loan payments when I was teaching overseas and had to return suddenly to Canada last year.

Lynsey Grosfield, 21, Montreal, Que.

I am working as a part-time model, no benefits, no insurance, and definitely not enough money for school. I also started a small business selling herbs and vegetables I started out in my backyard earlier this summer. Despite having a national merit scholarship, several other awards, and four prestigious internships under my belt, Montreal was not a city in which I could find work this summer. I have no parental support for my education, and my scholarships and part-time jobs just don’t pay for it all. I have been slowly going into debt over the past four years. I have had to drop out of school to pay off some of my debt, so I unfortunately won’t be able to finish my degree for a while. I have already borrowed about $16,000 and maxed out my credit cards.

Benjamin Kane, 23, Antigonish, N.S.

I worked as a travelling salesperson selling soft-serve ice cream equipment all over Ontario and Quebec. While on the road, I worked seven days a week and made 15-per-cent commission on any equipment I sold. Over two years I made an average of $8,000 per summer. I was able to cover my tuition and a slice of my living expenses but I was about $5,000 short each year. I graduated in May, 2012, with approximately $22,000 of debt ($6,000 to my bank, and $16,000 to my parents). Thankfully I was able to secure post-graduate employment in my field of study and should be debt-free by 2014.

Dan Boccaccio, 24, Hamilton, Ont.

I am Masters student studying Public Policy and Administration. This summer I am working for Health Canada as a policy analyst. My school is paid for through graduate scholarships and this job more than pays for my living expenses throughout the year. Undergrad was a different story. If I had not lived at home, or had my parents’ assistance, then I would have been thousands of dollars in debt, like the majority of university students.

Justine Brenneis, 20, Vancouver, B.C.

I work full-time for a small startup software company based in Richmond, B.C., making $15 an hour. I believe I will earn roughly $7,500 before the school term starts. While that is the most I will have earned in a summer to date, after bills for my apartment, I will not have enough for the upcoming school year. This will the be the first year that I will need to borrow money for my education. I will try to apply to as many grants as I can, but I’m assuming I’m going to have to take out a student loan, which I was trying to avoid. I expect to graduate with at least $10,000 of debt.

Click here to see what other students had to say.

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