Often commencing as early as July, back-to-school shopping has always been an annual ritual for students. However, the price for back-to-school items has risen with inflation, posing a financial burden on students across Canada. According to a survey conducted by Statistics Canada, the national Consumer Price Index has increased as of July 2023, raising the general price level by 3.3 per cent as compared to July 2022.
A national consumer research survey conducted by The Retail Council of Canada and Caddle—an internet marketing services company—in July 2023 revealed that, in 2022, 36.2% of Canadians were “willing to” spend more on back-to-school supplies than they did the previous year. In contrast, this year, only 31.8% of Canadians are “willing to” spend more on school supplies than they did last year. Despite consumers’ plans to economize with the rising retail prices, “84.6% of Canadians expect to spend the same or more amount of money on Back to School purchases as they did last year.”
When combined with tuition fees, costs for learning materials, and other university incidental fees, these increased back-to-school costs could burden post-secondary students significantly. On the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) website for future students, the estimated 2022-2023 school year costs for textbooks and school supplies ranged from $1000 to $2000. As stated on the university website, “The majority of programs of study will require a combination of textbooks, special classroom aids, lab equipment, computer equipment, etc.”
In March 2023, the Ontario government extended its tuition freeze to include the 2023-2024 school year. This applies to most Ontario students and post-secondary programs, with some exceptions. Notably, in March 2023, U of T’s planning and budget office maintained that non-Ontario resident domestic students still face a five per cent increase in tuition, while international students may see their tuition rise by an average of 2.1 percent.
The good news is that there are many aids available to support students financially. Applications for the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) are now open for full- and part-time university students. The U of T financial aid website also offers various support options for Ontario students, out-of-province Canadian students, and international students. Any students facing financial difficulties are welcome to visit the Office of the Registrar in Room 1235 of the Innovation Complex building for more information and assistance. On weekdays, services are offered over the phone from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and in person from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
There are also some tricks for saving money on the daily. A variety of places offer discounts to UTM students. Students can check the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union’s website or their info booth from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday at the Student Centre for more details. For programs that require electronic devices, the UTM library has a limited number of laptops that current students can borrow for free. Additionally, there are many computer stations that students are free to access during library opening hours.
Aside from these financial aids, students can also seek out employment opportunities to relieve some financial stress. On March 31, 2023, the Ontario government stated that the Ontario minimum wage would increase from $15.50 per hour to $16.55 per hour starting in October 2023. Students can check out the Career Centre for part-time opportunities both on and off campus.
While the current inflation trend imposes financial challenges on students, UTM has financial support systems that are readily accessible. Students may reach out to any of the above groups for more details and individual support.