For the past eight years I have been a graduate student at UBC. First, I completed an MSc in Forestry and am now doing my PhD in the same Faculty. During all this time I have lived in family housing and my husband and I have paid for after-school care (Kids club) for our two daughters.
These are the challenges I have encountered myself and seen other students face in these eight years:
- Even though the price of housing is subsidized, it is still excessive for most students.
- Students require care for their children before and after school, because often classes, fieldwork, teacher assistantships and experiments begin at 8:00 am and/or end at 5:00 pm or later. Elementary school starts at 9am and ends at 3pm. So, if we want to avoid paying for extra care and we live on campus we can commit to being at the University only between 9.30 am and 2.30pm.
- Both, housing and extra school care are incredibly expensive for students, particularly for international students, students with disabilities and single parents.
- For those who take personal leaves (many due to financial stress), there is a fee of CAD 120 be paid to UBC. This makes me wonder if UBC is a ‘Place of Mind’ or a ‘Place of Money.’ While taking parental leaves students cannot consult their supervisors or committee members, or use library resources, their Compass card, health insurance! or office. I get it, we are supposed to be with our newborns, but life is more complicated than that and it would be beneficial to keep some of the benefits of being a student, because we are in need of more support and we are still students.
- Mental health issues for students at UBC are increasing, and yet UBC only offers one on one counselling sessions every now and then because the demand is too big. There are many students that would appreciate it if couple therapy and family therapy were also part of the benefits.
- Most scholarships for graduate students are open up to our 4th year. Many of us struggle a lot from the 5th year onwards, trying to finish and trying to work so we can pay tuition and the basic life expenses.
- Offer more scholarships for students who are parents, especially if they are international students, students with disabilities and single parents.
- Offer counselling services for students and their families.
- Offer scholarships to students completing their thesis writing. This is the time when we just want to wrap up the program. It’s still important to fund it.
- If faculty members are not paying students a stipend, help them to prioritize their theses rather than requesting that they write papers. That can come later, as a postdoc position.
- Offer a basic allowance to all UBC graduate students. This should be based on criteria such as housing prices, need for extra care if they have children, health conditions, etcetera, and not on their field of research.