‘I Was Lucky Enough to Pay for My Education Myself’

We’ve invited readers to share their stories of financing education. How did you pay for your education, Cail Smith?

I was lucky enough to be able to pay for my entire Canadian undergraduate education myself. And I do mean lucky. I grew up knowing I was going to attend University and that I was expected to pay for as much of it as I could. My parents had paid for their educations—undergrad, master’s, and for my father, a doctorate—without going into debt.  But that was the 70s and 80s, and they let me know they didn’t expect me to pay for everything.

I started saving money for school in grade four and never stopped counting pennies. I’ve lived like a student all my life. I buy my clothes at Value Village, choose the cheapest thing on the menu and have avoided all addictions (especially a five dollar latte habit). I learned about the concept of merit scholarship early on, and I started pushing myself to get A’s as soon as they started giving them to us. 

I did get some scholarships, the biggest from my parents’ union, but that only paid for about a year and a half of school. To earn money to pay my tuition, I did all the normal things like babysitting and getting a part-time job at a laundromat during high school and my first year of university. Early in my university degree, I lucked into a union job at the library which paid well and allowed me to work between classes. Even when I thought about going somewhere else for my last couple years of university, this job was one of the reason sI stayed. I loved the staff, the work, and the pay.

I also stayed at that university because I was able to live with my parents. They didn’t pay for my tuition, books or clothes, but they said if I stayed in school and lived with them, they’d cover my rent and keep the fridge stocked. Paying no rent and having a well-paid job during school is amazing, and I’d highly recommend it. It’s the reason I left school with significant savings rather than debt, and I’ll forever be grateful to my parents for that.

Right now, I’m saving money for grad school. I still live like a student, except now I pay rent for a sketchy basement apartment and work at a non-profit. I’d really like to go to Portland State’s Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Planning, but even with my savings, I won’t be able to afford the program. I don’t know how anyone is really expected to pay for grad school without scholarships, savings or debt. I wish going to school internationally wasn’t so expensive. If you know of any good scholarships for Canadian students going to America to study urban planning, let me know! I’d really like to be lucky enough to pay for my education again.

How did you go to school? (Or, support yourself after high school?) logan@thebillfold.com

6 Comments / Post A Comment

FWIW, a classmate in my urban planning program transferred from Portland State’s program…he said it was organizationally a disaster. I don’t really have more details (and don’t want to out him or me) but, at least 2-3 years ago, that program wasn’t in great shape.

Why do you want to study urban planning in the US? There are some great programs in Canada, especially at UBC.

Riaana (#2,520)

I am a Canadian student who just finished graduate school in the US. It was certainly frustrating not to be eligible for many of the US scholarships that flowed through my inbox, as they are reserved for US citizens only.
Two options to think about are NSERC/SSHRC scholarships, which can be held in the US if you went to a Canadian undergrad institution, or Fulbright Scholarships which can be used to study in the US if you are from abroad. Good luck with things!

alexbaca@twitter (#1,557)

Going to school internationally isn’t necessarily expensive. Going to school in the U.S. is. I’m in grad school now (University of Maryland’s School of Architecture, Planning, Preservation, and Real Estate development [mouthful]—I’m part-time and eligible for in-state tuition, which means it’s cheap, which is the No. 1 reason I’m going), but I very seriously considered applying for an urban management master’s through one of the myriad English-taught programs in western Europe (University of Copenhagen, TU-Berlin, and University of Amsterdam were on the top of my list), because those countries have their sustainable-transportation shit way more figured out than the U.S. does, and it’s way, way, way cheaper, even as an American student, than paying out-of-state or private tuition at an American university. (I still may do this, but that’s another topic.) I’d kill to get a dual master’s in policy and planning at University of Southern California or a master’s in planning from Columbia, but after my parents paid in-state tuition at UMD for my undergraduate degree, I was like, no fucking way am I taking out loans for private or out-of-state tuition.

Also, I second the hot-mess reputation of PSU’s planning school (though there are some people doing really amazing research there).

TL;DR American education sucks/may not be worth it, as has been discussed at length here.

I’m in New Zealand, and at the time my degree cost about $4,000 a year. I had a full tuition scholarship, though, so out of pocket my degree only cost me a couple thousand (broken down here: http://nzmuse.com/2009/11/18/what-my-degree-cost-me/ plus, no doubt, some other random expenses here and there).

halluu (#2,526)

I live in Portland and that program is no good – I’ve had three friends drop out due to frustration.

PlanningToRide (#2,550)

Hi everyone, the blog post is my submission.
I just wanted to thank everyone for being so honest about PSU. I really wanted to go there for the cycling infrastructure program. I noticed while writing my honours paper that most the North American literature is coming out of there.

Comments from planners like yourselves (and a Portland dweller) has changed my mind about going to PSU. I wish this information was easier to find. I had never really though about going overseas, but in the last couple days I’ve started seriously considering it. Alexbaca, I’m looking at the University of Amsterdam (lots of bicycles there).

If anyone wants to be email buddies, my tumblr with contact info is here: http://planningtoride.tumblr.com/

Thank you again lovely people!

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