By Kate McDaid, Young Worker Committee (YWC)
The SEIU-West Young Workers Committee (YWC) is shining a light on issues that often get pushed into the shadows and aims to break down stigma associated with important issues in our communities.
The Student Debt Crisis
The Student Debt Crisis is not new, it has been weighing on students for well over a decade. I was once one of the 1.7M Canadians struggling to get out from under it. Since the 2008 recession, students have only seen times get harder. Tuition rates have risen dramatically in the last 10 years,—the University of Saskatchewan rose by 4.8% in 2018-2019, and 3.4% in 2019-2020. Currently, the average cost of post-secondary education in Canada is $80,000. Due to rising tuition rates and student enrolment, student debt in Canada totals over $18B, with no signs of slowing.
This knowledge causes great anxiety among young people, knowing that quality post-secondary education will likely put them into debt for years, sometimes decades. Most students end up taking on part-time work to help cover costs. 75% of students are below the age of 27, putting them into the category of Young Workers. Even with part-time jobs, 50% of Canadian college graduates have some sort of debt, with the average student debtor owing $26,075. Like any other kind of debt, student loan debt can negatively affect people in various ways. Depression, anxiety, poor sleep, tension, physical and emotional stress are just some of the ways concern over debt can manifest.
What Can We Do?
Support Mental Health. Many of your coworkers, even ones that are not young workers, can be paying off their education loans for years. And it is incredibly stressful. It’s up to us to recognize and support our coworkers who are struggling, and to help them access resources they may not know about that can make their lives a little easier. Employee Family Assistance Programs (EFAPs) offered through your workplace or organizations like Lifeworks offer resources such as counselling for anxiety, depression, debt management, budgeting, and saving advice. Many SEIU-West units have access to these services and they are a great tool to offer coworkers who may be feeling overwhelmed.
Make Sure Coworkers Have Access to Shifts. Allowing workers to pick up as many shifts as they would like through the proper use of call-in procedure, or advanced scheduling, can help them maximize the amount of income they take home. Similarly, filling grievances when the call-in procedure is not used properly defends the member from any loss of wages they could have earned before the error in scheduling.
Show Our Support! Every year, SEIU-West offers 20 scholarships of $750 to SEIU-West members or their children who are enrolled in post-secondary classes. By writing a short essay on “How unions contribute to a fair and just society, and how those contributions affect you,” and 10 members and 10 children of members can lighten their financial load. If you, a coworker, or a child of an SEIU-West member is thinking about taking a course from a post-secondary institution in the fall of 2022 don’t forget to apply. For more information and for how to apply, please visit our website.
Print this PDF to add to your work bulletin board and share this important message with your co-workers.