The UNB Student Union is building a wall.
And the bricks being used will be your thousands of dollars of debt.
The union is taking part in the “Wall of Debt” campaign along with other universities across the country that are part of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA). Students can write their amount of debt on a sheet of paper, then place it on the wall.
“It’s an easy way to contribute to a campaign which aims to bring awareness to student debt and financial assistance as huge issues that need to be addressed,” said UNBSU president Ben Whitney.
“Affordability is still one of the biggest issues contributing to lower post-secondary access and it’s something we need to address as a fundamental barrier in our education system.”
Whitney, who was the first in his family to attend university, has his own issues when dealing with student debt. He has accumulated around $40,000 in both public/private debt just in completing his undergrad.
“It’s been a struggle to finance my schooling and paying off the vast amount of debt I’ve accumulated is going to be difficult and definitely contributes to my stress levels in a major way,” he said.
The average student takes on over $30,000 in debt to complete this degree. Whitney said one of the goals is to get more people talking about the issue.
“We work on these issues with CASA and the [New Brunswick Student Alliance] frequently but we always want to get students more involved in our advocacy efforts and this is a great way to do that,” he said.
The UNBSU will start building their wall next week at SUB entryway by the SUB store.
Up the hill, the St. Thomas University Students’ Union started building their wall this week. Luke Robertson, vice-president education for the STUSU said the campaign will put a human face to the issue of student debt.
“It’s easy to pick out a statistic but that’s not very human,” Robertson said. “We are students who are leaving post secondary education with a significant barrier to our future success placed on our backs from the get go.”
Some of these barriers are not just financial.
“This is a multi-factor issue as well, with financial concern being a primary concern for many students and a significant contributor to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression,” he said.
Robertson said he has around $30,000 in debt and recently maxed out his $10,000 line of credit.
“Most students who do have debt have a mix of both public and private,” he said. “Which is difficult to manage as there are far fewer mechanisms in place to help students who have private debt.”
He hopes the campaign will start a national conversation about the student debt.
“We also want students to start talking about their own debt, and see that it is something we can make some real progress with,” Robertson said.
“Hopefully this will help prompt government to take action and work to have students better prepared for life after post-secondary education.”