Why is it so normalized for students to struggle? I don’t know one person who has gone through their four years of post-secondary education without reaching some level of burnout, without requiring a part-time job (or two), or not experiencing copious amounts of stress or anxiety.
In addition to the usual stressors, this struggle for students in 2022 is amplified as we are also struggling through a pandemic and seeing extreme financial inequalities rise in Canada.
The pandemic has had one of the biggest impacts on students. Statistics Canada explains that not only did nearly half of students either lose their job, get temporarily laid off, or lose work hours, good mental health levels have decreased significantly.
Luckily, as the pandemic seems to be coming to an end, part-time job opportunities are increasing for students. But what will it take for students to recover financially and mentally from the various stresses of the past two years?
On average, a Canadian student who relies on financial assistance is over $28,000 in debt by the time they finish a bachelor’s degree — there are 1.7 million students who are in this situation. It takes a student on average nine to 15 years to pay off their debt fully.
To try to offset some of this debt and to simply survive in a society where prices are constantly rising, many students require one part-time job, if not two. Shouldn’t students be able to focus all of their time and energy on their studies, hence the term ‘full-time student’?
In addition to working one or two jobs, most students try their best to live at the lowest cost possible. Many either live in student housing options or an apartment shared with three, four, or more other students to lower rental costs.
My dad tells me stories of when he was studying engineering at the University of British Columbia in the 80s and how he worked during the four summer months mowing lawns and doing general landscaping. With those summer earnings, he was able to pay for tuition, food, housing costs, and textbooks (and enjoy a few beers with friends at the campus pub).
It is nearly impossible for students to be able to do this in 2022. This impossibility to take care of our mental health while remaining financially stable as students should not be considered normal.
While this student struggle no doubt causes extreme amounts of stress and frustration on many students, it also demonstrates high levels of resiliency. Students of today have shown extreme amounts of persistence in many different ways by putting themselves through school, not only amidst a pandemic, but through a housing crisis, extreme financial inflation (hello, gas prices), and the stresses of global warming.
The work ethic of this generation of students is extraordinary. Yet, older generations like to label the millennial and Gen Z generations as lazy. This is far from the truth and I am hoping that the future will be easier for the next generation of students.
The current generation has truly been through it all. But it can only get better from here, right?