Most post-secondary students pay for their education through a combination of strategies:
- Applying for awards such as grants, bursaries, and scholarships
- Applying for student aid
- Receiving financial assistance from parents or other family members
- Reducing expenses by living with parents
- Using savings from jobs or investments
- Studying full time during the school year and working during summer breaks or part time throughout the year
- Studying part time and working full time
- Taking co-operative education, apprenticeship, or applied degree programs that include periods of paid employment
What’s your funding story? Explore these examples of different living arrangements, school costs, and funding solutions to see the many ways you can cover the costs of post-secondary education.
Different living arrangements, different school costs
Aaron, 17, will graduate from high school, and then study Environmental Sciences, a four-year degree program. Aaron will live at home rent-free, and work part-time during school and full-time each summer in jobs related to his field of study. Using the Student Budget Worksheet, Aaron has figured out that his earnings, a modest scholarship from his mom’s union, and funds from an RESP his parents started a few years ago will cover all his first-year costs. Aaron plans to apply for a student loan for his second and following years if needed. Aaron has the option to participate in a co-op program that will earn him full-time money. If he decides on this option, he will complete his degree in five years.
Jennifer is a single mother in her 30s planning to complete a four-year nursing degree program. She knows that with two pre-school children, she will not be able to handle a part-time job while she’s in school. She is planning to work during the summers. Jennifer has checked out the information at Loans and Grants. She has found out that because of her circumstances, she’ll qualify for both federal and provincial government loans and grants to fund most of her education.
Darwin’s home is in southern Alberta, so he’s moving to attend school. As a First Nations student, he qualifies for funding from his band and has also been awarded two scholarships. The band will fund Darwin for his first year. He will typically have to apply annually to his band office for all 4 years of his degree program. The scholarships are for his first year only. Darwin is researching scholarships and bursaries for next year.
Mikko, 25, is from a small town in northern Alberta. She decided to move to Edmonton to continue her education. After high school, she worked for four years and saved $12,000. Now in her second year, her savings are used up and she’s financing the rest of her education with a combination of student loans and grants, income from summer jobs, and help from her family.
Different loan and grant situations
Carlos is going to technical school to become an architectural technologist. He has $2,000 in the bank from a part-time job during high school and another $1,500 from his summer job. His parents have also saved $2,000 for his education. His tuition and books are covered, but Carlos has no other money for the first year, eight months, of school. Since he’s living at home, his living expenses are low. He has applied for several scholarships, but if he doesn’t get one, he’ll apply for student aid.
Without government student aid, Naomi, 23, would probably not be going to college. Her parents can’t afford to help pay for her education, so Naomi is relying on summer jobs, student aid, and a scholarship to get her through a four-year program. She’s going to graduate almost $10,000 in debt. She has decided to take longer to pay back her loan, because she plans to buy a car and get her own apartment after graduation. It’s not an ideal situation, but Naomi believes it's worth investing in both her education and her future.