Join us as we make our way through the city chatting with Torontonians about the issues they’re watching this federal election. In the fourth part of the series, we speak to a pair of friends at Nations Fresh Foods in the Stock Yards Village about the struggle to pay for post-secondary education.
Kristian Diaz could have gone to university and taken on thousands of dollars worth of student debt. Instead, Diaz, now 26, took a free two-month skills program at Centennial College and began working as an electric installer for Bombardier Aerospace.
“Now I’m getting paid more than I’ve ever gotten paid in my entire life,” she says.
The Star spoke to Diaz and Alexandria Osolky, 23, at the Nations Fresh Foods store in the Stock Yards Village about the challenges many young people, including Osolky, face in paying for post-secondary education.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous because there are so many other options. Not everyone knows about it,” Diaz says.
Osolky is currently living through that struggle. The York University student took on Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loans and is working part-time.
“It’s very stressful financially. You can’t work a full-time job and attend full-time school. And having to pay back those student loans take so, so much time,” Osolky says, adding that rent is another expense to manage on top of that.
“You do what you’ve got to do. You have to limit how many activities you do with your friends. Your social life kind of plummets … You can’t go to the bar, you can’t go to restaurants. Just like simple stuff anybody would want.”
Osolky says she is still trying to figure out who she will vote for.
“I still have to research all the different parties so I can get my head on straight on who I want to vote for and what’s more practical. But I’m definitely voting for someone who’s pro tuition that’s affordable,” she says.
One big issue for Osolky, though it’s a provincial policy, is the new rule around OSAP grants that eliminates a six-month interest-free period post-graduation.
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“As soon as I’m finished school I have to start (paying it back). It’s OSAP. I don’t have a choice, no leniency,” Osolky says. “In the meantime, I’ll be working a couple jobs to pay off what I can, and sending resumés everywhere.”
Diaz feels for her friend.
“It’s ridiculous that you have to pay immediately. Because in our generation, you know for a fact that you’re not going to get a full-time job right out of university. You’re going to be working minimum-wage jobs,” she says. “On top of that, you have all this debt and you can’t work toward anything that you even studied for. So it’s kind of just self-defeating. It’s creating such a large gap between all the different income brackets. If you’re down, you stay down.”