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The Globe and Mail

Your say: Students tell us how they're surviving on summer job earnings

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Fahmida Kamali, 20, Toronto – Since January, I've applied to over 150 internship positions (and only interviewed with two). Both told me I seemed like a "good fit" for their company culture but they had limited space for the internship program and could not offer me a position. I am still looking for a summer job, and will most likely have to find a retail position. I will have no money to cover my costs for the upcoming school year; I will have to rely completely on OSAP loans. To date, I've borrowed over $40,000 from OSAP (to cover my tuition for the regular school year and summer school, metropasses and books). I expect to graduate with approximately $50,000 in debt.

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James G, 23, Toronto – I’m working in the Toronto harbour on a luxurious party boat. I can cover my costs only because I live at home, but my father will soon be selling his place and I will be on my own. I really don't want to borrow money and I have not yet because I sink all that I can into a TFSA so that I don't need to get OSAP. I fear paying interest on loans is the worst possible position you can be in. I never want to be in debt and I try so hard to meet all payments, phone bills, credit card, school payments. It is tough being a single child with parents that don't have enough money to "sponsor" me. But I work hard and strive for a better quality of life every day that goes by.

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Cassie Stuurman, 21, Toronto – I work full time as a geophysical data analyst/processor at a company that specializes in borehole geophysics. I am paid $148 a day. I expect that I will be able to cover the majority of my costs for the upcoming school year. I do not expect to graduate with debt. I was fortunate enough to have parents that can help me out a lot, along with fluking my way into an industry facing a huge shortage of workers making it easy for senior level university students to find summer jobs.

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Scott Biden, 27, Victoria – With low pay, minimum wage, few hours, and scooping ice cream instead of a more lucrative job in my field (economics), good employment is hard to come by, especially as a student. This year’s expenses will be largely financed by student loans. I expect to have student loans totalling upwards of $11,000 this coming semester and ideally a couple minor scholarships or bursaries to help alleviate my future debt burden. Debt will run high for this late bloomer getting a degree. I assume I will end up with close to $35,000 in debt, if no unexpected occurrences befall me.

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Mary Wong, 27, Toronto – I am a first year law student and have been unable to secure a legal summer job in Toronto, even though I have years of work experience, including working at the University of Toronto, Munk Centre and several downtown Toronto law firms. I was told by many law firms that they do not hire first year law students and told me to apply again in second year. Currently, I am still job searching and have also consulted a legal staffing agency for temporary legal assistant or clerk work. I hope something will turn up.

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Robert Kiley, 24, Kingston, Ont. – I’m working as a research assistant at Queen's School of Policy. It’s a $5,000 contract. I expect to borrow about $5,000 on my line of credit, in addition to my $21,500 OSAP debt accumulated over two undergraduate degrees, totalling $26,000. I am very lucky to be an OGS scholarship holder ($15,000) or my debt load would be even more cumbersome.

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Brittney Bowen, 18, Toronto – I work part-time, 10 to 20 hours a week, and I am only making minimum wage. I have applied for OSAP again and last year received approximately $12,000, about 60 per cent of which was in loans and the rest was grants. I’m hoping to receive at least the same amount or more. Without a doubt, I expect to graduate with debt – at least $35,000 in student loans. I am trying very hard to avoid credit card debt but it is becoming increasingly difficult, because certain items must be paid for by a certain date and money is not always readily available.

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Benjamin Kane, 23, Antigonish, N.S. – I worked as a travelling salesperson selling soft-serve ice cream equipment all over Ontario and Quebec. While on the road, I worked seven days a week and made 15-per-cent commission on any equipment I sold. Over two years I made an average of $8,000 per summer. I was able to cover my tuition and a slice of my living expenses but I was about $5,000 short each year. I graduated in May, 2012, with approximately $22,000 of debt ($6,000 to my bank, and $16,000 to my parents). Thankfully I was able to secure post-graduate employment in my field of study and should be debt-free by 2014.

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Stacey Burger, 22, Fort Erie, Ont. – I've found it extremely difficult to depend on any of my summer jobs to make a dent in my upcoming tuition payments. I was only able to find a seven-week minimum-wage summer student position. I cannot live on that, let alone save any of it. It's frustrating to sink deeper and deeper into debt. I'm going to estimate that my summer savings will be $1,400 and my 2012 school year expenses will total around $13,000. This is my fifth year relying on OSAP. I have $27,000 of debt at this point, and another school year to go. I'm starting to get nervous about paying it back.

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Brian Belman, 20, Toronto – I am halfway through a paid internship doing research on post-secondary education. It is full time and after taxes I will end up with $6,900. All together, my school expenses will amount to about $12,600. I will likely have to borrow almost $7,000 to cover the rest of my expenses. After I graduate, I will have approximately $14,000 in debt. I've been grateful to have had a full-time job the past two summers; however, many of my friends have not been so lucky.

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Lynsey Grosfield, 21, Montreal, Que. – I am working as a part-time model, no benefits, no insurance, and definitely not enough money for school. I also started a small business selling herbs and vegetables I started out in my backyard earlier this summer. Despite having a national merit scholarship, several other awards, and four prestigious internships under my belt, Montreal was not a city in which I could find work this summer. I have no parental support for my education, and my scholarships and part-time jobs just don’t pay for it all. I have been slowly going into debt over the past four years. I have had to drop out of school to pay off some of my debt, so I unfortunately won’t be able to finish my degree for a while. I have already borrowed about $16,000 and maxed out my credit cards.

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Trevor Donald, 27, Banff, Alta. – I am working for Parks Canada as a bear guardian in Banff National Park. I work full-time at $17.40 an hour. Because of the high cost of living in Banff, I may be only able to cover one semester at Mount Allison University. I expect to graduate owing over $55,000. In addition, I owe over $4,000 in interest and penalties to the Province of New Brunswick, and to Revenue Canada for defaulting on my student loan payments when I was teaching overseas and had to return suddenly to Canada last year.

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Emma Harris, 21, Oakville, Ont. – I am one of the lucky ones who is fortunate enough to hold a stable, full-time summer job. I work in the marketing department of a workforce management services company, making $13 an hour. My costs for the upcoming school year will be 100 per cent covered. This is due in part to my pre-university savings, savings from my summer employment, and my parents, who cover the gap.

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Connor MacPhee, 21, Cornwall, PEI – I work as a finance and utilities clerk for the City of Charlottetown for a 16-week work-term earning $12 an hour. I will be able to cover all costs with personal funds. PEI also provides an "Island Student Award" bursary for students in each year of study who attended grade school on PEI, which helps retain Island students.

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Dan Boccaccio, 24, Hamilton, Ont. – I am Masters student studying Public Policy and Administration. This summer I am working for Health Canada as a policy analyst. My school is paid for through graduate scholarships and this job more than pays for my living expenses throughout the year. Undergrad was a different story. If I had not lived at home, or had my parents’ assistance, then I would have been thousands of dollars in debt, like the majority of university students.

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Justine Brenneis, 20, Vancouver, B.C. – I work full-time for a small startup software company based in Richmond, B.C., making $15 an hour. I believe I will earn roughly $7,500 before the school term starts. While that is the most I will have earned in a summer to date, after bills for my apartment, I will not have enough for the upcoming school year. This will the be the first year that I will need to borrow money for my education. I will try to apply to as many grants as I can, but I’m assuming I’m going to have to take out a student loan, which I was trying to avoid. I expect to graduate with at least $10,000 of debt.

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Brian Collins, 20, Thunder Bay, Ont. – I currently work two jobs. I am working at a pulp and paper mill as a chemical engineer co-op student for $16.88 an hour, 40 hours per week. My second job is as a propane pump attendant for $11 an hour, for 11 hours on weekends. I will be able to cover all of my costs for the upcoming school year through a combination of savings, RESP withdrawls and scholarships.

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Rebecca MacDonald, 20, Halifax – I am working at a local outdoor pool for my fifth summer in a row. I work 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. weekdays, for 10.75 an hour. My earnings from this summer won't cover all my expenses, but I will be able to cover the costs with my earnings from my job during the school year. I live with my parents, so my expenses are significantly less than many other students.

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Alex Piniach, 21, Regina – I work full time in labour market policy and planning making $20 an hour. I will graduate with a wealth of around $25,000. I am currently investing my savings in the stock market.

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