Recognizing The Need For More Mental Health Support In Canadian Universities

There are a number of factors that contribute to student stress levels.  The number of factors are rising, and the intensity of the factors are increasing as well.  The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations sees the need to modernize mental health support systems of Canadian universities.  They want to see a coordinated effort between schools working toward improving their mental health programs because they see a rise of mental health problems on Canadian campuses.

These student leaders understand that there are new causes affecting the stress levels of students and that action must be taken.  For example, getting a job right out of university was commonplace years ago.  Lambert, President of Wilfrid Laurier University’s Student Union, explains:

If you look back 10, 20 years, getting a university degree was a differentiator, and from that point you were fine

Now, among other things, students have added stress of worrying about obtaining a job after graduation.  Getting a degree should cover that, some may think.  This problem wasn’t very common back in the day, as it was fairly easy to find a good use of one’s college degree.  However, finding a job relatable to your degree has been a challenge for recent graduates.

The intensity of the factors have increased significantly - this article on The Globe and Mail discusses 2012 vs. 1984.  When speaking of intensity, we’re talking numbers.  The cost of tuition, homes, cars, etc. have increased significantly.  Here’s a couple numbers pulled from The Globe and Mail article:

These numbers are from a date when the average family after-tax income was around $50,000, so these costs are definitely affordable for the time.  Rob Carrick, the author of The Globe and Mail article, puts the tuition cost into perspective:

Today, financial self-sufficiency is impossible without taking breaks from school to work. The Bank of Canada’s handy inflation calculator tells us that my $1,000 tuition back in 1984 would cost $2,028 today if it increased just by the inflation rate annually.

It’s clear that a poor job market and the increased cost of postsecondary are contributing to the rising stress levels.  Along with these factors are the rising costs of future purchases that students have on their mind while they take a look at their debt total: buying a house, car, etc.  Add these factors to pre-existing causes of student stress and we have a problem.  Students already deal with school work, part-time work, social drama, family issues, etc., and adding financial distress is putting some students over the edge.


Posted on August 26, 2014 By RCKTSHP With 0 comments

Meet the Intern: Journalism Edition

Halla I.

Journalism Student at Ryerson University

Expected Graduation Date:  December 2014

Tell us about the internships you will or have previously completed?

Specifically related to journalism, I have had one at NOW Magazine, three [other] internships and then a job that was work related as a research assistant.

By the end of it, everyone [in journalism] will do a mandatory internship. In total, I will have had four internships.

 If only one is mandatory, why did you choose to do so many internships? 

 To be honest, I wanted to do something related in my field over the summer,  I wanted to spend the time learning about the industry a lot better, and you need that competitive edge.

Also with Ryerson from day one, it’s really stressed that as important as what you are learning in the classroom, if you aren’t applying it, then it’s almost like a waste, in some sense. There’s definitely a push from first year that you should be getting published. Actually our school has a very intense outreach with available internships in the community; well actually it’s all over the country. So our coordinators will email us saying there’s this internship opportunity in Alberta or Ontario or down the street, that sort of thing. It’s definitely a part of the culture of Ryerson.

How did you find your internship placements? Were the majority through the resources at Ryerson?

Well, no. NOW Magazine that was by myself. That took almost 3 months of just showing up, emailing, calling, I mean not every day but kind of like waiting a week calling HR, calling the editor.  That was something I had to do on my own.

Did you feel supported by your supervisors during your work experience?

 Yes, absolutely. At NOW Magazine, that was great,  a part of their support was just leaving me alone, if that makes sense. It was giving me guidance in the beginning and then being like we trust you, we trust what you are learning in school, we trust that you want to be here so that the quality of work is going to be good. So I always felt supported. Actually from day one, the editor was like you’re not going to be getting coffee for us, you are not going to be watering plants, you are here to do a job.  And so everyone was really friendly.  Most people were pretty excited you know, to see someone still in school, like a fresh young face who wants to get to know people.

 Any particular skills, training or insight  you gained from your internship? What will be most helpful for the future? 

 Specifically through internships, there’s one thing that can’t compare to actual work place experience, just learning simple things, like time management. Everyone thinks they have that down pat with school but when you are actually in a newsroom or working with an editorial team,  you realize it’s just like go, go, go, go, go and having to think on your feet, especially with journalism. You develop thicker skin, if a story gets scrapped before the deadline, that’s life, let it go.

You learn a lot of stuff that might not even be specifically related to a specific skill, like coding or writing, it’s more of how you manage your tasks.

Have you ever worked at an unpaid internship?

Oh yes. When I was at NOW Magazine, that was unpaid. But because I really wanted to work at that paper, I was supposed to be there 5 days a week, but I dropped down to 3 days a week and served 4 days a week. Basically, to find a balance. Realistically, with a job like that, the fact that I was serving, the money that I was making in 4 days kind of balanced out the 3 days of unpaid work. I made NOW Magazine a priority and found ways to, you know, pay for life around it.

Do you feel unpaid internships are worth the experience that can be gained?

 I think that NOW Magazine was really accommodating to me….  They are a smaller, independent magazine. That appeals to the culture of NOW Magazine.  I’ve been to interviews where things are all  happy and they are like “we love you, we want you to work here”.  And then they’ll [say]  “oh we aren’t paying” and there’s almost this attitude that you just do this for free 5 days a week, for 40 hours. It’s very awkward, it’s very unfair.   I have friends that can do amazing unpaid internships for four months with  these big names and once you get that on your resume it’s great, it opens so many doors. But those are also friends who come from a family that will pay their downtown rent [and] will cover all their expenses. There are definitely issues, with class. That’s a little harsh. But there is a lot of BS surrounding unpaid internships, unfortunately.

What has been the best part of being an intern?

I love being around like-minded people. I think that’s the best part. I think the experience that you get through an internship is unlike anything else . You know, I usually spend my summers doing  minimum wages job, retail jobs [but] at the end of the day if you’re making the same amount of money or less money serving,  it’s more of an rewarding experience, knowing that you have something legitimate on paper, something that will help you in the long run. It’s great being able to learn from the people that I work with.

What are your future plans after graduation (job) or what is your expected outcome of your program?    

 My future plans.  With Ryerson, your internship with the program is 6 weeks and you can do it with  any publication really. For the most part the school will set you up, with a newspaper, so like The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Post. I have chosen to do the Wikimedia Foundation. I’m doing research and policy related to the journalism and media field. So I am interning with them [next] and fingers crossed they hire me, because that’s the kind of company I’d love to work for.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Any internship questions for Halla? Want to tell us about your experience as an intern?  Send us an email at




A New Model Of Higher Education

There are people in this world that would love to broaden their knowledge and skills by receiving higher education, but they simply just can’t afford it.  Shai Reshef had a vision (that’s now a reality) to help those without financial backing get the higher education that they deserve.  In his own words, Shai Reshef “would like to share with you a new model of higher education:”

University of the People is an accredited, online university that is extremely low cost.  The learning is free, although to take exams and earn your degree there is a cost.  Still, this cost ends up being much, much cheaper than attending your average post-secondary institution.  Only two programs are available at the moment, but the structure of this institution allows for growth.  Perhaps within the next five years you will be able to attend the University of the People for more than a Business Administration or Computer Science degree.

Part of the reason Reshef decided to create this institution is because he sees the people of this world as bright individuals that have potential.  He doesn’t like that some are held back from continuing their education when they have the desire to continue it.  Reshef explains what this new idea can achieve:

[It can] enhance the collective intelligence of millions of creative and motivated individuals that otherwise would be left behind.

In my opinion, he envisions a future where financial status does not define you.  He wants equal opportunity for everyone when it comes to education.  He explains:

Higher education stopped being a right for all, and became a privilege for the few.

If you currently don’t feel as if you have the ability to reach post-secondary school, think again – all you need is motivation and Internet access.


Avoid Ending Up In A Student Loan Horror Story

No one in his or her right mind would enjoy ending up in a situation like any of these three individuals:

They’re three very different situations that revolve around the troubles of student loan repayment.  It’s a topic that, a lot of the time, you don’t really learn about until it’s actually happening to you.

For example, think of a situation where you’ve just finished your undergraduate degree and now you have to pay back student loans – what are you going to do?

  • Have you done the calculations and figured out how much of a payment you can afford to make each month following graduation?
  • Do you know how long you’ll be paying off your debt for?

Forums are filled with graduates that still don’t understand how paying back student loans works, even though they are in the process of doing it.  Questions like not knowing how much of each payment goes towards interest and how much goes towards principal is unfortunately very common.

The stories of these three lenders will help you and remind you that student loans are serious business.  Each story provides a different piece of student loan advice that you can take away and use how you wish.


Alan Ens had no clue how much income his degree was setting him up to make once he graduated.  The advice you can learn from Alan’s story is to not over-borrow.  You must do research to figure out if the benefits will out-weigh the costs.  Alan himself says:

I wish I had that information: If you have this degree, what generally do people make from it?

Taking out $100,000 worth of loans (private and federal combined) is never that great of an idea – especially if what you want to do in life will not provide you with the funds to pay back a loan.

No one wants to be or can afford to be paying back student loans until the day he or she retires.  A smart decision would be to calculate, before going into post-secondary, how much the payments following graduation will end up being.  This way you will see if it is a feasible amount to borrow.

Other options more realistic than taking out $100,000 of student loans:

  • Work for a few years between high school and post-secondary to save up money
  • Apply to a variety of schools for the same program (and make sure there are cheaper options in that list)
  • Simply choose another degree/career path that interests you

Don’t be an over-borrower!


Jeremy Cooper’s advice is great for many things in life:  In every situation it’s always nice to have a plan B.

You don’t want to get caught not knowing what to do in any given situation, and things don’t always work out the way you’d like.  Jeremey took out a large amount of student loans for a college degree that didn’t give him a second career option.  It was not a smart move.

If you must take out student loans be sure that the degree path you’ve chosen doesn’t give you only one option, because if that option doesn’t come to fruition you are stuck with thousands in student loan debt.

What happens after this?  You either:

  • Win your own personal lottery by somehow finding a well-paying job (not related to your degree) that repays your loan debt
  • Or you’re stuck with a low paying job and your debt is increasing because you can’t even cover the interest charges on your loan repayment

Chances are that you would find yourself in the latter situation more often than not, just as Jeremy did:

Since graduation, Cooper [Jeremy] has fallen behind on his private loan payments, and his private debt has nearly doubled to $88,000. Despite working full-time day and part-time night jobs and scaling back his expenses to the bare minimum, Cooper says he does not see a way out of default.

Always try to have a back-up plan.  I’m sure you’ve heard this one before: it’s better to be safe than sorry.


Joel Winston’s story has a happy ending.  If you find yourself in a situation similar to Joel’s, your story can have a happy ending as well as long as you remember to keep records of important payments.

This piece of advice is useful for more than just repaying loans, because you never want to be told you owe large sums money when you really don’t.  Remember this piece of advice when paying for expenses like rent, tuition, and loan debt:

If there’s a mistake, the borrower should find out what payments the lender is saying it didn’t receive, then submit proof that those payments were made, says Mayotte.

In the end, it’s on you to prove lenders wrong if you’re accused of not making payments.  Keeping records of your payments is a simple way to prepare for the worst!


Leading Teenagers To A Life Of Debt

The video above covers something that plenty of college students and graduates have thought about: is going to college and racking up debt actually worth it?  The one trillion dollar student loan debt crisis says no – students, across the USA specifically, are failing to pay off their debt from post-secondary loans.  A select few that are fortunate enough to find well-paying jobs and/or a job that aligns with their passion in life will argue yes, it is worth it.  A well-paying job will help you pay off debt quickly, and finding your dream job will sometimes make it worth the hassle of dealing with debt if you really love what you do.  The only problem is that well-paying and dream jobs are hard to come by, even with a degree.  A recent graduate interviewed in this piece shares his view on this problem:

To get an interview at a mediocre, basic, any level job – you have to have it [a college degree]. You know, once you graduate college they talk about if you really want to do something in your field you’ve got to get a masters degree.

Basically this guy is saying that you need to do even more schooling on top of your college degree, and spend even more money, to get a chance at doing what you’re aspiring to do as a career.  Great, bring on even more debt! James (the guy in this video) makes a great point that the ones making the decisions leading to this debt crisis are teenagers.  Looking back do you think you actually knew what you were getting into when deciding whether or not to get a loan for college?  Did you really know what you wanted to do in college and for the rest of your life, or did you decide on a degree path based on a couple classes you took in high school?  Was the loan you took out used for something you’re passionate about?  No matter the situation, I think most of us can agree that 17-18 year olds in high school are not ready to make some of the decisions they are making.  James Altucher interviews a recent graduate, and I think he says it best himself:

I guess in high school they don’t prepare you to go into the world, they prepare you to go into college. And I guess there wasn’t really an option besides that – it was which college?

Yes, some teenagers are very fortunate and they have role models that help guide them in the direction they want to be going.  And if that direction is to college that’s great, but a lot of high school students feel that getting to college is the only measure of success.  It’s more plausible for teenagers to rely on what they hear and see in high school (peer pressure/peer influence from friends, counselors, teachers) when making decisions for the next steps of life.  The main problem with this is that high school doesn’t prepare you for a lot of the big decisions. High school doesn’t educate you on how loans can put a strain on your life post-graduation.  High schoolers may think that taking out a loan isn’t a big deal and that their job following graduation will pay it off easily.  They believe that they can figure out what they want to do in life during their college career if they don’t already know.  High school isn’t organized in a way that guarantees it can guide teenagers on a path they are passionate about, so why do teenagers get in the mindset that college = success and happiness?  Learning what you’re passionate about is something that everyone learns at different times in his or her life.  For some, being pushed into university can end up being a waste of money.  James shares his thoughts:

You don’t get your passion and your love of life from a classroom. You get it from inside yourself, from thinking about the things that excite you, that interest you – from exploring those interests whenever you have a chance. But if every chance you have, you have to think how am I going to pay back this debt…. You’re going to be miserable.

What he means is that debt puts a strain on all the financial decisions you make after graduation, so is it really worth it in the first place?  If you really know what you want to do and are passionate about it, then you can probably deal with having debt because you truly enjoy what you’re doing.  Maybe you’ve found a way to make it through college debt-free – which is awesome – and I wish I could have done the same because then experimentation of your interests is feasible.  However, there are many former students that come out of college with debt and don’t land jobs that align with their passions or repay their loan.  A couple examples of these former students are in the video embedded in this post.  Would these students have been better off postponing college and not taking out a loan before figuring out what they want from a career standpoint?  This is when the question, “are student loans worth it?,” gets asked.


If The Purge Was Real, All College Students Would Get Rid of The Same Thing

On July 18th, the action-thriller movie The Purge: Anarchy was released in to theaters. The movie is set in the chaotic streets of a city during an annual 12-hour free-for-all in which crime, including murder, is temporarily rendered legal. The idea of being allowed to commit any crime and getting away with it got young viewers imaginations running wild. As tweets poured out from students about what they would do if there were a purge, there was a surprising common theme. One might think broke college students would say they would break into a liquor store, or maybe stock up on expensive groceries but according to their tweets they’re looking at the bigger picture and would try to erase something that has Americans $1.2 Trillion dollars in debt.


Posted on July 31, 2014 By RCKTSHP With 0 comments

Can you afford to intern?

A common dilemma facing new graduates entering the work force is the experience required for full time employment. With a rising trend in unpaid internships and despite the ongoing controversy over their legality, the question being raised is who exactly can afford to be an intern?

The experience predicament

The situation is familiar to many students in university. In order to be hired, they need experience, but they need a job or internship to gain that necessary experience.  For those who are financially independent on part time jobs, student loans or savings, unpaid internships are an opportunity they can’t afford.

While the only legal unpaid internships under Canada’s labour laws are those that are done in correspondence with university training or credit program, students still pay their university or college tuition to completing an internship. Mandatory internship programs cost the same as a course.  At Mount Royal University the internship fee is almost $500 and the University of Calgary intern or co-op fee is $423.

Money, money, money

For a student who is completely self-sufficient, without any financial help from outside sources, it can be difficult to make enough money at a summer or part time job to support themselves throughout the school year.

Alberta’s current minimum wage is $9.95/hour. If a student were to work at 40 hours a week for the approximately 16 weeks of summer break, they would have savings of around $6,400 (not including taxes)

With tuition in Alberta recorded at $5,023 for a Humanities degree and $5,886 for Engineering, these savings have now dwindled to $ 1,000 dollars at best.

Taking into account rent, which for a two bedroom in Alberta ranges around $1,190 per month, this does not leave much money for the essential costs of living expenses, including food and utilities.

Across Canada, tuition and living expenses have surpassed the amount a student can make in one summer, leading many to turn to government loans or juggling jobs with course loads.

 The minimum costs of post- secondary education in both Alberta and Ontario, not including text books, equipment or living expenses.

The minimum costs of post- secondary education in both Alberta and Ontario, not including text books, equipment or living expenses. Source Data: Statistics Canada

Student debt overload

Many post-secondary students turn to student loans to finance their education. While this debt allows students to successfully pursue their education, there are rising concerns regarding graduate’s debt loads.

According to a Statistics Canada Survey of Financial Security, $28.3 billion was owed in student loans in 2012. This is a generous increase, up 24.4% from 2005.

The Canada Student Loans Program gave half a million Canadians $2.4 billion in financial support for post-secondary education in 2011-12.

A student survey by BMO reports that students expect to graduate with around $25,000 dollars in debt.  The survey notes that more than half of students use student loans and they expect it will take approximately 6.4 years to pay this debt.

A debt sentence?

With the knowledge of student loans  being owed for years to come,  students may feel they cannot afford to work in exchange for solely training or experience or for lower than minimum wage. Many students may feel the need to overlook an internship opportunity for paying work, sacrificing essential on the job experience.

A study on student loans also showed that borrowers have a considerably lower chance of having savings and investments, 42% compared to 52% of non-borrowers in 2007. Borrowers with postsecondary education were also less likely to own their home or if they were homeowner, were more likely to have a mortgage.

Distinct Advantage

Many companies take advantage of the cheap labour hiring an intern can produce and in return interns receive the benefit of real work experience.

Students who have other means of financial support while they complete their post-secondary education have an economic advantage over those who have to forfeit internships that pay with experience.  Summer internships can be crucial to future job opportunities.

These internships are opportunities to build experience into their resumes, making these students more likely to be hired once a new graduating class enters into the work force.

Those who can intern, gain the experience necessary to gain full time employment, while students who are working to support themselves and their families, along with paying tuition or student loans can’t find employment in their desired field without internships that give them the essential experience and training.

Can you afford to intern?


Living With Parents Beyond Post-Secondary

This article on the National Post covers an issue a lot of us 20-somethings are experiencing at the moment: being forced to retreat back to our parent’s houses in our 20s.  Don’t worry recent graduates in Toronto…. you’re not alone:

A large percentage of young adults choose to live at home well into their 20s across the country. Data from Statistics Canada shows that 76% of people born in the ’80s live in the family home in their early twenties. The percentage is a dramatic increase from the 46% of people born in the ’70s who lived at home in their twenties.

Perhaps this can be attributed to the rising number of young adults that are choosing to attend post-secondary, and are paying their fees with loans / out of their own pocket.  When you get to university you gain a sense of independence, and get a taste of how great it may be to live on your own, get your adulthood underway, and not have to rely on anyone anymore.  Nobody really wants to move back in with their parents, right?  However, the truth is that current trends point most of us back in one direction – back to our parent’s house.  Maybe it’s expensive tuition you’re trying to pay off that forces you to save money while living with your parents again.  It could be that, or it could be the rising rental prices. The National Post article explains:

Toronto has some of the most expensive rental apartments in the country, with the average one bedroom apartment costing over  $1100 a month. A one-bedroom in Ottawa costs just $850; in Montreal a 1-bedroom costs $870.

This recent study done by Pollara gives us a clear reason why more and more 20-somethings are finding their way back to their parent’s house. They found the average Canadian with a degree earns $45,000 (with two years of work experience!).  After two years on the job, the average recent grad in Toronto is expected to pay just under 30% of their earnings towards rent.  It’s no wonder that a lot of us 20-somethings are taking the inexpensive route and asking mom and dad for a few more years of hospitality while the debt lessens.

Ms. Gutwoski moved out of her parents’ home last September and found an apartment at Bathurst and College streets with her friend. The pair are paying $1800 a month in rent, not including utilities.  She says the grass is always greener; these days she admires friends who are still living at home. “They’re the ones making smart decisions and saving money,” she continues.

Chances are it’s probably a mix of school and rental costs, with even more factors to add in, that are forcing these young adults back to their parent’s houses. As the article explains, not only is debt and ricing rental prices a part of the phenomenon, but there’s been a culture shift as well. Many people now, in comparison to past generations, believe it’s okay to live with your parents in your 20s.


Exploitation or experience?

In light of crackdowns on unpaid internship programs, students and new grads should be aware of the labour laws and the consequences of interning for free.

Currently, a lack of evidence exists regarding the number of people completing unpaid internships. These unpaid positions are under investigation across Canada and the United States. It is estimated that some 300,000 young Canadians are working as unpaid interns.

This had led to an outcry that instead of giving experience and job training, unpaid internships violate labour regulations and exploit young workers. Others argue the experience, even unpaid, is essential to those desperate for any job opportunities.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Working for experience? Photo Credit: Unsplash

Crackdown in Canada

Recently, the unpaid and internship programs of Toronto publications, The Walrus and Toronto Life were investigated by the Ontario Ministry of Labour and terminated, citing the majority of the internships as illegal and in violation of the labour laws of Ontario.

The internship programs at these magazines were long running and not always associated with a university or college. Bell Mobility has also faced allegations it broke the law with its “voluntary” training program..

Neighbouring conflicts

In the US, the high profile publication company Condé Nast closed their internship program in October 2013 after facing lawsuits from unpaid interns. Internships at Condé Nast’s publications, which include Vogue, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and GQ were highly coveted and deemed an essential stepping-stone to journalism experience.

The US labour law states that internships must be similar to training and benefit the intern over the company in order to be considered an unpaid internship. Intern positions that do not meet the exceptions qualify as employees and “typically must be paid at least the minimum wage”.

Under the law

Labour regulation varies slightly by province in Canada. Interns should be informed of the labour laws in the province they are interning in.


Exceptions for unpaid internships in Ontario state that the training an intern receives is similar to a vocational school. These exceptions include:

  • The training is for the benefit of the intern. The intern receives some benefit from the training, i.e. knowledge or skills.
  • The intern does not replace an employee and is not promised a job at the end of the training period
  • The intern has been told that they will not be paid for their time

Otherwise, under the Ontario Employment Standards Act interns are qualified to receive at least minimum wage for their work.

The Ontario Employment Standards Act does also not apply to interns who work under a program authorized by a college or university.


In September 2014, there will be a new minimum wage in Alberta. According to the minimum wage fact sheets, students engaged in a work experience program approved by the Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education or the Minister of Alberta Human Services, are exempt from being paid the minimum wage. If an in internship in Alberta does not pay minimum wage or involve school credit in some way, it is unpaid and therefore illegal.

British Colombia

The BC government has defined an internship as “ on-the-job training offered by an employer to provide a person with practical experience.” If an intern’s duties fall under the definition of work, the intern is therefore considered an employee. According to the BC Employment Standards Act, work is defined as the labour or services performed by an employee.

Federal Level

On a federal level in the Canada, there are no exact definitions or clarity on the legality of internships. However, if an intern is performing work, they are entitled to the minimum wage of the province they are currently interning in.

Experience = Jobs

The regulations and termination of many intern programs are not welcomed by all. The competitive job market leads to those with experience gaining employment and even if unpaid, internships are a way to integrate directly into the work environment. With the experience on a resume; it can ultimately help a new grad find gainful employment.

With regulations being enforced after lawsuit are filed from unpaid interns and companies being forced to shut down unpaid programs, those that offer compensation for work outside of school programs are few and far between and the competition is fierce.

The announcement that the Government of Canada intends to spend $40 million in order to support paid internships in the “high-demand” fields of science, technology, engineering and math is a step in the right direction, but still leaves many young workers grappling with the choice of working for experience instead of pay.