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University Cost How Much ?

Back in 2005, long before my oldest was going to start University I wrote University is Going to Cost How Much? Outlining from an article from the University of Waterloo, possible University costs over the four years of my daughters’ careers, little did I know how much was missed by me. This Throwback Thursday I will reexamine the naive view I had of the costs that were going to face me (financially), and hopefully help those still wondering how much this might cost, when their children go to a post secondary school.

Surprisingly the numbers quoted by the University of Waterloo Web Page aren’t really that out of whack (at the time):

  • A student in the Co-Op program living on campus would pay $10K-12K
  • Living Off-campus they’d pay $7K-$8K
  • If they lived at home $4K-6K

Now remember this was about 9 years ago, and the numbers quoted are for a 4 month stint (so the real annual numbers are doubled).

Graduates Moving
Doesn’t Look Expensive, does it?

The interesting extra costs that I learned about (the hard way) are:

  • Computing device of some kind, be it a tablet, laptop, desktop or all of them, is going to cost you and you had better make sure you have a reliable I.T. set up (all 3 of my daughters had their laptops blow up during final exams). You will more likely than not have to replace those devices after about 2 years. That is about a $400-$2000 cost (every two  years, not including any I.T. issues, like hard drive failures and the like).
  • Trips home, if the kids are not living at home, they will want to come home, and depending on how far away they live this cost could add up to more than $1000 per 4 month term. Yes, we can all say, “They should just stay there for Thanksgiving!”, and other hard-line statements, but until you have lived the life, careful about your comments.
  • Fees and such are an interesting add-on that most universities charge. Some you can try to get refunds on (if your Health insurance covers your kids, then don’t pay for the University’s Health insurance as well), however there are many “activity fees” that are non-refundable as well, so watch out for those they can add up.
  • Living off campus can be cheaper, unless you have to furnish that apartment, and supply plates, pots, pans, etc., as well. A one time cost, but still not an expense to forget about (yes used furniture places are great for this to save money). Other incidental costs like Internet Access and heating bills add up as well, figure out a monthly budget with your kids so they learn how to live within their means.

What about Co-Op Programs ?

If your child is looking at a Co-Op program, talk with them about the importance of learning to be self-sustaining, and how proud they might feel paying for all of their education themselves, they might fall for that ploy too.

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Canadian Students Pay Net Zero Tuition ?

The Higher Education Strategy Associates and specifically Alex Usher feel that Canadian Students (in higher education) have it better than any generation previously according to their publication Canadian Students Pay Net Zero Tuition.

The arithmetic put forward is quite simple:

An interesting little bit of arithmetic (note I do not call in Mathematics), but a little simplistic in some ways as well.

Are We Graduating a Generation of Debtors ?

Are We Graduating a Generation of Debtors ?

Data ignored in this study  are:

  • Accommodation and living expenses, how many students live away from home ? One might argue it is the student’s choice to move away from home to study “abroad” as it were, however many programs are only offered in specific places, and Canada has many Universities, but not one in every town.
  • Books and similar supplies are not really mentioned. Yes, many E-books should be cheaper, but from my small sample they really aren’t (but I do agree they are easier to pack up at the end of a school term).

The student assistance model seems to have a flawed assumption that all the “$10B” is offered to every student, which is really not so.

  1. They mention "...$350 million or so in First Nations’ Band Funding under the Post-Secondary Student Support Program ...", my kids (and a majority of students) have no rights to make claims against this.
  2. Then we have "...universities collectively gave out just over $1.5 billion in scholarships...", again these are not necessarily available to all students, some are Merit based (i.e. marks), some are activity based (athletes, volunteering, etc.,) and some are Academic Area based (e.g. Scholarships specifically for Electrical Engineering students, etc.,)
  3. Grants? "... $350 million for provincial merit grants and tri-council scholarships ..." , again many kids are excluded from those grants because their parents are too affluent, and thus the student is not deserving to receive that grant.

I am not really disputing the numbers, I think the studies are quite comprehensive, but also naive in my opinion. I do like the follow-up article by Mr. Usher Good and Bad Arguments Against Education Tax Credits.

Most of my readers already know my opinions of the sometimes oppressive costs of Post Secondary Education (check out my RESP menu item and scroll down a bit), I think the statement about Net Zero Tuition is hokum, but I do agree Canada tries to make Post Secondary Education less fiscally destructive than in the U.S., but I think Canada can do better. A University Graduate with $50,000 in debt to start paying off the day they graduate is a worrisome concept, in my opinion.

My real opinion is that Post-secondary education should be available to anyone who wants to do it, at no cost, I guess that is my Quebecois roots showing.

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Tales of Remote Laptop Repair

Written in 2014 when I had 3 daughters at University, and laptop repair long distance was not an easy thing to do. I muddled through it and at the end I had quite the Laptop Boneyard of spare parts.

Last week my youngest daughter called to say that her laptop computer was in distress, and was not working, due to the batter being dead, and the charging unit unable to charge it. This continues the family tradition of:

By the end of the 2nd University year, all laptops will crash or become  unusable at a time when an important assignment must  be completed, which results in the purchase of a replacement computer either immediately, or shortly after that time.

Big Cajun Man – Rules of Technology – 2014

I kid you not, that is exactly what has happened to all 3 of my daughters. The first two laptops were HP (I wrote about my oldest daughters problems in Student Computer Safety) and this last one is a Dell, all three have had issues with the charging unit, the system overheating and/or hard disk crashes (i.e. the dreaded BSOD (Blue Screen of Death). The problem is that portable computing is now “table stakes” for most University Students (unfortunately), so (for now) a laptop computer is a necessary (expensive) evil.

Old Laptop
A Rehabilitated formerly dead Laptop from the “Big Cajun Man Laptop Graveyard”

I ended up having to buy another Dell Laptop to send my daughter back to school with, and after some judicious “Dad’s I.T.” wizardry, I was able to extract all the important data from the laptop’s hard drive.

I am now left with a “dead” laptop however Costco is now “fixing” the broken computer (thanks to their Concierge warranty which doubles the normal 1 year warranty for most computers), but the methodology to make the “fix” happen is quite puzzling (to me). I had to call someone, who took down all the details of what transpired (and verified I had in fact bought this PC at Costco). Once it was determined that the computer needed fixing (which seemed obvious to me, but I had to convince the person at the other end of the phone that), the young lady said the PC would be serviced and I would receive a Box very soon.

The Box arrived, shipped via Purolator to the house (naturally left at the front door, without ringing the door bell). This magical Box, was padded with styrofoam, but it had tear aways so that the computer fit in it properly. The box also included a whole bunch of documentation for me to fill in, and finally it included a pre-paid packing label (for Purolator) to put on the box.

I filled in all forms, my wife made sure the computer fit in the box, and we included all the requested documentation(that we could find). We taped the Box shut, put the shipping label on it, and took it to the Purolator drop off site, and away it went. It is now whisking off to a repair place in Toronto, that will hopefully fix the computer, and then ship it back to me (presumably by Purolator).

My only question is, how can this be cost effective?!? I suppose it must be, or Costco wouldn’t do it this way (they seem to be a very smart retailing firm), but it leaves me scratching my head (and hoping to see a Purolator truck showing up at the house soon). Other retailers follow this model, so it must be that they have very cheap rates with the courier companies, and a well negotiated support contract with whoever is fixing the computers.

Assuming the machine can be fixed I now have a 3rd lap top to add to the “Big Cajun Laptop Graveyard”.  I  point out that this piece was actually written on one of those formerly derelict computers (picture above).

Other Back to School Thoughts?

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Tuition Fee Study

Stats Canada did their yearly University tuition fees, 2013/2014 report last week, and as usual I read it intently, their tuition fee study is always interesting.

The opening paragraph sums it all up very nicely for anyone wondering about the costs of sending their kids to University in the next little while:

Canadian full-time students in undergraduate programs paid 3.3% more on average in tuition fees for the 2013/2014 academic year this fall than they did a year earlier. This follows a 4.2% increase in 2012/2013.

tuition fee study


Keep in mind that the last Inflation report from Stats Canada stated, that year over year inflation was at 1.3%. Simple math seems to say that tuition fees are growing approximately 200% of inflation, and that year over year is going to add up very quickly (as pointed out by Kyle Prevost on Preet’s Mostly Money, Mostly Canadian podcast (I am catching up on those in my spare time too)).

Glad to see that Stats Canada is also looking at the many extra fees that schools charge:

Services included in additional compulsory fees vary from institution to institution, and can change over time. Typically, they include fees for athletics, student health services, student associations, as well as other fees that apply to full-time Canadian students.

Students can opt out of a few of these fees (if your parents have a health and dental plan, you should opt out right away, since that fee is typically in the $300 range (combined)). I promise that some time this week I will publish a redacted set of the fees I now pay for both of my daughters at Trent University and Acadia University (need to make it publishable).

Tuition Fee Study

As with all the great info from Stats Canada there are 4 separate tables breaking down the tuition fee study, and the most interesting one for me is the following:

Average undergraduate tuition fees for Canadian full-time students, by field of study

 

2012/2013r

2013/2014p

2012/2013 to 2013/2014

 

current dollars

% change

Agriculture, natural resources and conservation

5,119

5,297

2.9

Architecture and related technologies

5,340

5,586

4.6

Humanities

4,941

5,079

2.8

Business, management and public administration

6,097

6,326

3.8

Education

4,273

4,378

2.5

Engineering

6,560

6,864

4.6

Law, legal professions and studies

9,549

10,030

5.0

Medicine

12,012

12,438

3.5

Visual and performing arts, and communications technologies

5,002

5,151

0.0

Physical and life sciences and technology

5,335

5,484

2.8

Mathematics, computer and information science

6,051

6,319

4.4

Social and behavioral science

4,966

5,107

2.8

Other health, parks, recreation and fitness

5,232

5,399

3.2

Dentistry

16,678

17,324

3.9

Nursing

4,985

5,103

2.4

Pharmacy

10,463

10,942

4.6

Veterinary medicine

6,383

6,628

3.8

revised

preliminary

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The Tuition Circle

Sunday, my wife and I and my two daughters (who are still at University) sat at the kitchen table to tackle the odious task of applying for OSAP grants and paying for tuition for the coming school term.

This whole thing took about 1 and a half hours and at the end of it we had to:

This is not very cheap

This is not very cheap

  • Reference the school(s) web site(s) to find the fees that need to be paid (and evidently library fines too). At the end of it, we actually had to check on 3 different University sites (one of my daughters is taking a course that includes courses from two different schools). This was just to get Tuition, if you have a child in residence you may have to check in different parts of the web site to find all the fees.
  • Have copies of mine and my wife’s latest tax forms for the OSAP application.
  • Know how much your children have made this year as income.
  • Balances of any RESPs that you have set up for your kids
  • Have all the printers for all 3 computers you are using because you are going to be printing out forms for the OSAP application (no kidding my kids didn’t have the house printer set up).
  • A pen to sign all the forms for your kids.
  • The OSAP forms then have to be dropped off at school in some fashion or another, and if this is the first time your child is applying, they will either need a cheque or something form the bank for where the Grant/Loan will be put (or you can say have the money go directly to the school which cuts out this part of the fun and games)

At the end of this I had to pay the tuition but even that isn’t as easy as you think because one school allows me to pay with my Credit Card (hey I get PC Points from that so I am happy), however two of the other schools only allow me to pay on line with my bank, and in that case I need to know when the Tuition is due, because I am only going to pay that on the day it is due.

All in all, an interesting way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Oh and we haven’t looked at books and such either.

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