University Without Debt

BY CARRIE MAH

Recently, our company’s CEO, Nancy Knowlton, wrote a compelling article on the escalating amount of debt that today’s students are incurring just to receive a post-secondary education. The article, entitled, “The crippling effects of student debt,” reveals the damaging long-term effects of student debt on society and the economy as a whole. Upon reading this, I was inspired to write and respond with my own personal story on student debt.

Save

I feel bad for writing this, but my sister and I were one of the lucky university students that graduated (or will graduate) without debt. My family are middle class, but my parents taught me​ the value of money and the importance of saving up.

My wonderful family

They’ve been working their entire lives, trying to make our lives easier growing up. My parents sacrificed a normal social life and a business in order to raise their kids well. They owned a restaurant in Oyen, a small town; but moved to Calgary for better education.

We were spoiled. My mom drove us to school every morning, waking up early to make us food, packing us a healthy lunch, and picking us up from her sister’s (my wonderful aunt, the homemaker) house. My dad retired when he came to Calgary, so our family doesn’t generate a ton of income.
 
But what was their trick to ensure a debt-free life? A lot of sacrifice, for which I am eternally grateful and a bit sad about. I owe a lot to my pa​rents, who saved a lot for our education.
 
We weren’t typical families who went camping every long weekend, or ate out every week. Instead, we went to festivals, hung out at the library, and had a healthy home-cooked meal every ni​ght (with exception of special occasions or eating out with my aunts, cousins, and grandma).
 
When airfare was cheaper, we had family vacations every summer–unfortunately I don’t remember a lot of it, but my ​parents always found the best deals. My parents never splurged on themselves, or indulged our short attention spans. We had our fill with the McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, Christmas/birthday presents, books, and educational computer games from Staples or cereal boxes. Those were the days.

Emphasis on Education

Edu

I really liked my childhood, and I’m very grateful that my parents wanted us to have the best education possible. I remember that I wanted to watch the new Pokemon episode, but instead was taught the timetables. Don’t worry, my parents aren’t like stereotypical Asian parents, but they were firm and always encouraged us to do our best. My sister cried one day over a low grade, and my mom said “Who cares? Stop stressing out. I just want you and your sister to be happy. I’m still proud of you.” This made me want to work harder.

They tried to mitigate distractions as well: eating out when too lazy to cook, working more than the average part-timer, and even doing chores. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to eat out once in a while, but it’s healthier and cheaper to eat at home; and work develops different skills. But when finances become a stressful thing in your life, where you have very little savings, it becomes a distraction from what you’re paying for.

Learning to be Independent

Home

Although I didn’t grow up doing chores, I’ve learned how to fend for myself and live with someone else. My family and I pitched in to buy an apartment next to the University to save on transportation and gas. Mike and I now split all expenses 50/50 and make up excuses when my mom offers to pay for groceries. She’s the type of person who will sneak money into your pocket if she owes you (or believes she does). And she fights for the bill when a big group of our family eats out. I want my mom to save the money she earns, so she and my dad can have a relaxing retirement.

My mom taught me a lot about money (and drove me every week to Money Matters), and although some kids end up taking advantage of their parents’ money, I’ve become very appreciative and learned to be savvy with saving money (sales, coupons, purchasing in bulk).

Plus, the government offers a lot of scholarships and bursaries, especially to minority students (my ethnicity and lack of gender representation in my field of studies). The Alberta government also give grants to those who receive student loans. There’s tons of opportunities available to decrease the potential for debt. I’m saving up so I can pay off my student loans quickly (interest rates are the worst). I always make sure to pay off my credit card bill in full, because interest rates (whether from the bank or government) eat your money like it’s candy.

I’m a special case, and am very lucky to be where I am, surrounded by very loving people. University is expensive, so that’s why I always encourage junior high and high school students in public schools to try different electives before they attend University. School fees are so small compared to University. And don’t get me started on upgrading…that’s costly too! But that’s another story. 


Our CEO, Nancy Knowlton, has her own blog…

IN 1987 I CO-FOUNDED SMART TECHNOLOGIES INC. (ALONG WITH MY HUSBAND, DAVID MARTIN) IN CALGARY, CANADA. FROM LEAN TIMES TO GLOBAL MARKET LEADERSHIP, WE CREATED PRODUCTS LIKE THE SMART BOARD INTERACTIVE WHITEBOARD THAT CHANGED THE WAY PEOPLE WORKED AND LEARNED IN LITERALLY MILLIONS OF MEETING ROOMS AND CLASSROOMS ALL AROUND THE WORLD.
Nancy
OVER A 25 YEAR PERIOD, WE GREW FROM A TWO-PERSON START-UP TO A GLOBAL COMPANY WITH ANNUAL REVENUES JUST UNDER $800 MILLION. WHETHER IT WAS MANAGING GROWTH AND RAPIDLY EXPANDING STAFF, UNDERSTANDING TRENDS AND TECHNOLOGY DIRECTIONS, CREATING INNOVATIVE PRODUCTS, FENDING OFF COMPETITORS OR DELIVERING ON CUSTOMER COMMITMENTS, I’VE GAINED INSIGHTS AND FORMED VIEWS.
AND WE’RE DOING IT AGAIN IN OUR NEW COMPANIES.

Nancy Knowlton

I CONTINUE TO HAVE A DEEP INTEREST IN EDUCATION ISSUES AND OPPORTUNITIES. RATHER THAN JUST GOING ALONG FOR THE RIDE, I AM INTERESTED IN HOW EDUCATION CAN AND SHOULD EVOLVE TO MEET RAPIDLY DEVELOPING NEEDS IN INDIVIDUAL COUNTRIES AND REGIONS. TECHNOLOGY CERTAINLY PLAYS A ROLE BUT SO DOES SOUND PEDAGOGY.
I HAVE OTHER INTERESTS IN A VARIETY OF AREAS. NOTHING EXCITES ME MORE THAN WORKING WITH MOTIVATED, CAPABLE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO FOLLOW A TRAIL THAT WE BLAZE.

Click here to read her latest blogs!

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One thought on “University Without Debt

  1. Pingback: Debt Regret Video Blog | The Whipper Snappers Blog

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