Inflation is impacting the daily lives of KPU students
The rising cost of groceries, rent, gas, and other essential items add additional stress to the weight of being a student
The rise of inflation and current high costs of living is affecting many Canadians in every aspect of their lives, especially students.
As the end of the spring semester approaches, many students are stressed about their studies and final exams. With inflation continuing to rise, many are also worried about their financial status, and how they can make ends meet in their daily lives while studying at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
With the increase in gas prices, groceries, and tuition, many students are feeling bleak about the future of Canada’s economy and how they will afford to continue living in British Columbia.
Xavier Ardez is one of these students. In his fourth year at KPU, Ardez relies on scholarships and savings to get through his schooling but recently had to think about turning elsewhere.
“This semester was the first time I had to think about getting a loan, but thankfully my family had saved up. From here on out though, it is a question mark,” Ardez says.
“Because of the rising prices in textbooks and tuition, I did think about getting a student loan. Taking a loan out would not be that bad, but I am thinking of it as a last resort. I would rather get as many scholarships as I can and save,” he says.
Ardez is living with his family and pays rent. The mortgage increase on his family’s home has forced him to work more frequently while taking full-time courses at KPU.
“I am working more and spending less. During the summers, I work full-time so I can help pay for mortgage, insurance, phone bills, and tuition,” he says.
Rabia Aziz is an economics instructor at KPU’s Melville School of Business, and says inflation rates in Canada will continue to rise in 2023, especially as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to impact Canada’s economy.
“Food costs in January 2023 have increased by about 10.4 per cent. Gasoline has slightly gone down since 2021, but if you compare pre-COVID-19 to post-COVID-19 pandemic, it is still high,” Aziz says.
Shelter has gone up 6.5 per cent, transportation by 5.9 per cent, and health and personal care by 5.5 per cent compared to February last year, according to the Consumer Price Index from BCStats.
Aziz says she understands many students are confused by the concept of inflation and how it works.
“Inflation or high inflation rate is the general increase in our prices. When the average price goes up, that is inflation. It is not specifically one particular good, like gasoline or housing, but the general increase in the price level of our economy,” she says.
“It is based on the consumer price index and is the consumption basket that the typical Canadian family uses,” Aziz says.
“Cost of living increases are more than the overall inflation. If the average inflation rate is 5.9 per cent, the cost of living in Canada would be higher than that because food, gasoline, rent, transportation, increases by more than the average inflation. That is why these specific things are costing more than the overall basket of goods and services.”
A survey by Dalhousie University found 33.4 per cent of British Columbians think price gouging is the reason for food increases at the grocery store.
Another survey by Dalhousie found grocery stores, such as Loblaws, have profited more than ever before, and “outperformed” their profits in 2022 from past years.
Jasjeet Kaur is a KPU student who works at Save On Foods. Before the rise in inflation, she used to get a substantial discount when grocery shopping there.
“Prices have been increasing at a very high rate,” Kaur says. “I used to get discounts on groceries, like 20 per cent off, but not now with increased prices. Sometimes I spend my full salary only on food.”
Inflation has also affected restaurant prices. A report by Foodservices Facts found menu prices at full service restaurants were set to increase 7.8 per cent last year. Thirty-five per cent of these restaurants were planning to raise their meal prices even higher with increases of up to 15 per cent.
These increases have also impacted KPU students when buying take-out and eating out.
“Groceries and rent are not affordable for [average] people,” says KPU student Harleen Moroak. “It is really hard to even buy a meal …I personally avoid eating out a lot.”
“I prefer to do a lot of grocery shopping and so I cook at home myself. If I have to buy a coffee, I have a limit and budget set for myself.”
Paola Portillo is another KPU student who also has to set a budget for herself, which means avoiding eating out at restaurants.
“What I’ve been doing to save money is to not buy food from outside places. I make food at home and look at the best deals when buying food,” she says.
“I live with my family, and when we go grocery shopping we go to Costco and buy things in bulk. Costco usually has great deals, so we try to stay on top of them and buy what we need as we go.”
Samridhi Arora is the members services coordinator for the Kwantlen Student Association Food Bank and has noticed an uptick in KPU students relying on their services.
“Post-COVID-19 student requests for food have almost tripled,” Arora says.
Every month, the KSA Food Bank gets around 300 requests from students at all KPU campuses and most requests are in Surrey.
Although the increase in students using the food bank is seen as a positive, inflation is also affecting what the KSA Food Bank can afford to purchase on budget.
“We are buying more stuff than usual. Every trip is more than the previous trip. It becomes harder for us to cater more than 300 requests a month and it especially will if the demands continue to rise,” Arora says.
“Inflation has greatly affected our budget. I got more money passed this year for the food bank, compared to previous years. We go to Costco twice a month and the items are the same, but they cost more.”
Students can apply for food twice a month by filling out the form on their website. The form does not ask for any information regarding KPU student’s financial status or why they want to use the food bank.
KPU international students have also been greatly impacted by inflation and the rising costs of tuition.
Gurleen Shergill is an international student at KPU who lives at home with her family.
“My family is helping me out. They are paying my tuition because as an international student, inflation is really high,” she says.
“KPU needs to provide more scholarships or aids to [international] students. Anything that will help. That would help me.”
Although many KPU students choose to live at home due to unaffordable rent prices, many don’t have this option.
“I used to live in a basement suite and would pay around $1,100, but now the basement suite is $1,600. That does not even include utilities. If I have $200, I have to sustain that for three weeks or so,” Moroak says.
“It is really hard for the regular public to sustain their life on a normal basis. We need to be aware of how we can save money and be more productive and efficient in spending. We need to look for other ways where we can get a more efficient pay rate.”
Although the Government of Canada increased the minimum wage from $15.65 to $16.65 at the beginning of April, many do not see this as a solution to combat inflation.
“In terms of economics, minimum wage increases are not recommended because minimum wage does not affect high skilled workers. Therefore, minimum wage increases will ultimately create a bigger problem,” Aziz says.
Aziz also says the government needs to understand which groups of people are most affected by minimum wage.
“Young people, high school students, unskilled workers, and immigrants are the demographic that is affected. So, when we increase minimum wage, it increases higher unemployment for the small low-skilled worker because the small business owner is affected and it is harder to retain workers on minimum wage.”
The problem with minimum wage increases is that the cost of living is different in every city and can greatly vary depending on where people live, she says.
“The cost of living in Metro Vancouver could be very different from the cost of living in Abbotsford. The idea [of a living wage] is that your wage should be enough to support a family of four in that particular geographical area,” Aziz says.
“The problem with the living wage is that it is not a mandatory restriction by the government.”
Aziz says inflation has also affected giant industries like Apple and Amazon, yet they can bounce back at a faster rate when the economy recovers than smaller businesses can.
“As soon as the economy takes a jumpstart, that is where people will immediately start spending. However, the collapse is quite severe because people are not spending as much at the Apple store,” she says.
“If people are not spending on these goods they will see lower demand and therefore lower profits because people are substituting for cheaper alternatives,” Aziz says.
Aziz also says if inflation goes down, that does not mean grocery store and gas prices will automatically be cheaper.
“It doesn’t mean prices are going down, prices are still rising. That is why it still hurts our pockets when we go to the grocery store,” she says.
This means students and the general public will still be impacted by inflation for the time being, and Ardez hopes the government will provide a solution before it is too late.
“Going forward, if we do nothing, the prices will keep going up. If the government decides to reduce some costs, it will be a temporary fix. There needs to be more of a permanent fix,” he says.