These MUN students are grappling with the rising cost of living along with tuition increases

·3 min read
Danielle O'Neill poses with her husband Gerald. (Submitted by Danielle O'Neill - image credit)
Danielle O'Neill poses with her husband Gerald. (Submitted by Danielle O'Neill - image credit)
Submitted by Danielle O'Neill
Submitted by Danielle O'Neill

Students at Memorial University in St. John's are already facing a tuition increase — and as the cost of living overall rises, some don't know if they can handle the financial squeeze.

Danielle O'Neill, a first-year social work student at Memorial University in St. John's, says she feels too connected to Newfoundland to uproot and leave with her husband and three young children in search of better job opportunities and a lower cost of living elsewhere. But she thinks the province's fiscal instability will mean her children and many others in their generation will leave.

"I really, really don't see them staying here. When they finish high school, I don't expect them to stay. I want them to have a better start to their adult lives, especially financially."

O'Neill says she feels lucky that because she was enrolled before the hike was announced, her tuition is going up only four per cent a year. Before the increase, announced in July, full-time tuition for students from Newfoundland and Labrador was set at $2,550 per year, while Canadian students from outside the province paid $3,330. Tuition for all N.L. and other Canadian students will now cost $6,000 a year. International students will see tuition go from $11,000 to $20,000 per year.

Still, O'Neill says she's considered pursuing her degree online, because MUN's low tuition was a major factor in her decision to enrol, and its higher cost means a tighter household budget.

Submitted by Danielle O'Neill
Submitted by Danielle O'Neill

The family now carefully makes weekly meal plans and eats out less often, and after 15 years with two cars, they've decided to be a one-vehicle household to save money, she said.

"The price of gas has blown my budget out of the water," she said.

O'Neill said the Newfoundland and Labrador government needs to make the cost of living more manageable for residents by increasing the number of child-care facilities and reducing the prices of food and gas. Statistics Canada recently announced that the national inflation rate rose to an 18-year high of 4.4 per cent in September, with transportation, food and shelter the biggest factors in the increase.

"Gas prices alone are affecting the cost of living. It affects food, because the food trucks bring the food here. Once gas prices go up everything goes up," she said.

Submitted by Tanjin Amin
Submitted by Tanjin Amin

'It's terrible for students'

Md Tanjin Amin, a PhD candidate in process engineering, said he's seen costs rise dramatically since he arrived in Newfoundland in 2016. When recently trying to help some new students find housing, he discovered that a room that would have cost $400-$450 in 2019 now rents for $550-$600 a month.

"It's terrible for students," he said. By the time rent costs are covered students are only left with, I would say, $150 for other expenses and students are having to work more," he said, with some then unable to finish their degrees on time. "The whole system is making it harder for the students."

Amin said he's concerned for his livelihood in Newfoundland and Labrador, and when he's done his PhD he plans to leave the province. With the oil industry declining, he said, the government needs a sustainable plan.

"They need to identify the problems of the industry," he said. "Without the government guarding the industry they can't expect people to stay here and have a sustainable economy."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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