Thursday, 19 June 2014

Funding Your RRU Education



Hopefully you have considered affordability as part of your early educational planning. Affordability means understanding the costs associated with a program and having a reasonable plan for paying for it. When you accept admissions, you are accepting financial responsibility for that decision.

This blog aims to provide enough general information to get started with a funding plan. We invite you to find more detailed about each funding program on our website, then give us a call if you have more questions.

Let's start by figuring out how much you need

The Credit Counselling Society provides an exceptionally detailed monthly spending planner in Excel format. Squawkfox posts another good one.  If you don't already know your monthly spending habits, start tracking them now!
This Q&A might help you complete the rest of the spending planner:
Q: Can I put my previous student loans on payment and interest free status?
A: Check out RRU’s government student loan page to see if your program qualifies as full-time. For non-BC residents, please contact us.

Q: What does housing cost in Victoria?
A:  If you’re moving to Victoria, check out RRU's off-campus housing page to see the going rental rates. Just coming to Victoria for residency? Full information regarding our on-campus housing rates are found here.


Consider in your budget now, rent for the first month after completion of studies. 


Q: For tuition and required fees, how much is due and when?
A: Look for your program’s Payment Schedules here. You are given the choice of paying for each year up front or breaking it down into installments over the year – most students choose the installment method. If your program’s intake is not listed, look at last year's schedule and add 2%.

Q: How much will textbooks cost?
A: While different for each program, it’s probably safe to estimate $100 per course.

Q: How much will I need to pay for the international component of my program?
A: Tough one to answer but I would budget about $5,000 for a 3-week residency abroad for airfare, meals, accommodation, and ground transportation. Increase that amount accordingly for longer internships or field practices.




Now figure out how to pay for it

This is a common but not exhaustive list of financial resources in order of my personal preference. Free education is an option only for a very few students. Reality is, you will likely need to consider your education a worthy and personal investment.

1. Borrow from your bank
Most banks offer a Student Lines of Credit of up to $10,000 each year at lower interest rates than a regular line of credit. This is the most flexible funding option available. It won’t cost you anything until you start using it, and then you only pay interest on the portion that you use. Best time to apply for this is after you’ve accepted admissions and before you change your employment situation because students who do not have an income will likely require a co-signer.

If you have an RRSP you can borrow from it tax free through the Lifelong Learning Plan.

For both of these programs, get a Confirmation of Enrollment letter from the Registrar’s Office, then book an appointment with a loan officer at your bank or your RRSP investment specialist to apply.

2. Borrow from the Canadian government
Canadian citizens and permanent residents check out RRU's government student loan page to see what kind of loan and grant support is available for your program, whether full-time or part-time loans.  For programs that start in the fall, student loan applications are generally available by mid-June each year. Apply early!
You may be eligible to receive a refund on your income taxes. We cannot provide accounting advice but welcome you to check out the CRA website to learn about common deductions and credits for students.
International students should seek government assistance from their home country.

3. Check out what's available through the University
RRU offers a modest amount of funding through competition to students enrolled at our institution and nearly all of our awards are open to international students. Generally 28% of students who apply for this funding receive, on average, $1,811. You’ll see the individual award dollar amounts as you complete an application - they range between $500 to $8,000.
Our awards fall into four categories: Entrance Awards, In Course Awards, Convocation Awards, and Emergency Funding.
Apply for an Entrance Award/Bursary in a competition that falls before your first day of class.
If you are an active student on the deadline date (1st day of February, May, August, and November), you can apply in the In-Course Award competition.

Before applying for an Entrance or In-Course award, check out the post How To Write An Award-Winning Essay.
Finally, our Convocation Awards rewards exceptional students that are selected through a variety of ways, whether by GPA, faculty nomination, or peer nomination. 
Outside of these award competitions is a limited amount of Emergency Funding offered through bursaries or short-term loans to students who experience unexpected emergencies.
Full information on these award competitions can be found on the RRU website.


4. Looking for major scholarships?
We administer a few major grants on behalf of external funding agencies when RRU is either involved in the nominee selection process or administration of funding. These scholarships are listed here and include important application instructions.


RRU is able to nominate academically excellent students each year to receive research training scholarships valued at $17,500 through the Canada Graduate Scholarship Master’s program.


This blog post has advice on how to apply for a Canada Graduate Scholarship Masters scholarship. I encourage you to read it at least a year before you begin your RRU masters studies, even if you haven’t nailed down a research topic. Definitely read it if you’re in first year of grad study.
 
Students who don't meet the academic background to be competitive for Canada Graduate Scholarship Masters might consider Mitacs Accelerate. Through this funding program graduate students can receive renewable grants of $15,000.



5. Funding from, well, everywhere else:

For external awards not mentioned above, RRU takes a very hands-off approach. You may find some award opportunities on our External Awards page. While this list is small, it has been curated to include only high quality awards that we feel are well-suited to RRU students.

There are also valuable award search engines like ScholarshipsCanada.com and Yconic.com where you enter info about your situation and they list awards of potential interest to you. The government of Canada also has a search engine for Canadians wishing to study abroad or international students wishing to study in Canada.

An effective google search will pull up a lot more awards that are relevant to your level of study or topic of research. Effective search tools are:

(OR)                  helps pull results of a similar concept  e.g. award OR bursary OR scholarship
(“ “)                   quotations will limit your search to a specific phrase
(~)                      helps you search for synonyms or other like words for when you’re looking for funding related to your research.

NOTE: Don’t spend too long looking for research "grants", however, because that type of funding is generally for faculty. Student research is a training exercise and it’s the tuition most funders are gearing their dollars towards so look for bursaries, awards, and scholarships.

(intitle:)            retrieves search words that appear in a website’s title field
                          e.g. intitle: coastcapital bursary brings  up Coast Capital Savings Credit Union                            Education Awards

(*)                      The asterisk wildcard helps fill in the blanks  e.g. Canad* will retrieve Canada, Canadian, etc.

(-)                           a hyphen before a word will exclude it in your search
                               e.g. –US  excludes scholarships for US post-secondary institutions

Be specific in your search and use phrases and terms typical of websites (e.g. bursary student), rather than conversational language like I need money for school.

The final step is the reality check

I’ve seen many students with a few thousand dollars of financial need make it through just fine but if you’re seeing financial need in the five figure range, perhaps it’s time to:
·       re-evaluate your planned expenses. Perhaps the kids would be willing to sacrifice singing 
        lessons for a year?

·       consider a different program format. For example, take a blended 2-year option rather than a 

        condensed format. Tuition is the same but payable over a longer period of time, you will have  
        time for employment and you'll have access to more award and bursary opportunities (i.e. RRU 
        runs competitions four times a year). If you work 31 hours or less a week, you are considered    
        a part-time employee for student loan purposes and may be eligible for full-time student loans 
        if your program is eligible (check out #2 above to confirm program eligibility).

·        choose a program that doesn't require extra costs like international travel

·        change your research plan to scale down on cost. Research at the master’s level doesn't need  

         to break your budget.

·        save for another year



Now you know the basics in how to fund your education and the opportunities you can take advantage early in your educational journey. Never miss an opportunity to apply for funding if you need it...opportunities run out the longer you leave it.

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