How to pay for school

Carrie Russell, Senior Vice President of Retail Banking for TD Canada Trust. A very good friend of mine spent the summers during high school bailing hay and tending to a large number of farm animals. It was physically challenging and not terribly social, but paid well and he was determined to pay his own way through university. With a lot of hard work and saving, he graduated almost debt-free four years later.

For university and college students living away from home, the annual cost of pursing an undergraduate degree today is about $20,000. As a result, most students need to secure summer jobs to help cover the costs. Here is my advice to younger Canadians on how to fund your future education and stay on track once you’re in school:

1. It’s not too late to get a summer job

Businesses such as restaurants, bars and tourist attractions usually need to hire more staff in the summer. Many companies also take on paid interns during the summer months. Networking is key to finding a job at any age. Family and friends are a good source of ideas and reference, so let them know you’re looking and where your interests lie.

2. Explore your financial options

The costs of earning a post-secondary education can quickly add up, so explore your payment options up front. A good place to start is to investigate what scholarships, bursaries and loans you qualify for. Once you’ve explored those options, opening a student line of credit at your bank can be a smart way to ensure you have access to money for things like books, tuition and rent at a lower interest rate than a loan or credit cards.

3. Take advantage of being a student

The right bank account should give you the value you need as a student and save you money on fees. Once your paycheques start coming in, automate your savings by setting up a regular pre-authorized transfer of a portion of every pay cheque this summer into a high-interest savings account.

4. Create a budget

Students usually find that they are light on cash but have high expenses. That’s why it’s so important to set a budget. Calculate your total income and then subtract all your expenses. If it’s a negative balance, you need to rethink your spending or consider additional financing options. If your balance is positive, talk to your bank about smart savings strategies. Don’t forget to revisit your budget regularly.

Planning for your education and how to fund it is an important step and the earlier you start saving, the better off you’ll be. And that way you can focus your energy on school and university life! If you have an idea for a future column, please write to me at


Carrie Russell works for TD Canada Trust and has over 20 years experience in financial services.