Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Understanding Your Grad Funding at UofT

One of the most attractive features of University of Toronto (UofT) is that they provide to most (if not all) research stream graduate students with funding. This makes your graduate education virtually free. However, in engineering, our (lowest) base funding is $23,000 per year before paying tuition. Tuition itself is now roughly $8500. Now, although the total funding obtained by international students is way more than that, they pay more tuition too. In the end, you are left with $14500 annually or $1208 per month (regardless of whether you are a domestic or an international student). But, you are not paid $1208 every month and the finance in your first year can be quite complicated. Read on the learn more.

First of all, let's get into the details of paying tuition. Tuition for grad school in UofT works as follow - you need to finish paying all your tuition before the winter semester ends. For example, if you started in September 2013, you are expected to pay all your tuition by end of April 2014. There is one small twist to it though.

Before that, I need to explain a bit more on the structure of the funding. Whether you have a major scholarship (like those from NSERC, SSHRC or some other major research council) or not, your funding is always divided into 2 source (at least this is true in the ECE department). I will refer the first source as the "major funding", which comes from UofT or some research council. This is constitute a large portion of your funding. Then, there is the "minor funding" provided by your supervisor's research funding. The major funding is typically given out evenly in 3 terms - the beginning of fall, winter and spring term. This will be crucial to understanding how your major funding interacts with tuition. On a side note, the minor funding is provided evenly throughout the year.

Let's finish up the discussion on tuition. Here is the catch on not paying tuition early. Initially, during the fall semester, you will received 1/3 of your major funding. The school will not charge you tuition. If you don't pay tuition during the fall term, when the winter term comes, your next portion of the funding will all be used to pay tuition. In other words, you won't get any major funding in the winter since all of it goes to tuition. Then, when April comes, you can: (1) pay the remaining tuition using part of the funding, or (2) let the school take a portion from the major funding for the spring term.

So, what's my point? My point is simply to tell you that your funding is NOT EVENLY DISTRIBUTED (if you don't pay tuition upfront). So you need to manage it wisely. I will give you my example as a hypothetical case study and how I could have manage my finance during my first year. Please note that not that this example does not apply to everyone.

During my first, I got the major scholarship - NSERC CGS which is worth $17,500. However, UofT tries to treat everyone "fairly" and allows professor to pay less, so that my total funding is $23,500. My major funding is $5833 per term, whereas my minor funding is $500 per month. My tuition was roughly $8300. So, when fall comes, I received my first portion of my major funding $5833. I decided not to pay tuition early because I can use them to earn 1% annual interest in my saving account. When winter comes, I know I won't get a cent, because my $5833 will be credited to my tuition balance. So, in winter term, my tuition is roughly $2467.

Let's say I don't want to touch any of my personal saving for grad school and I wanted to save up my money during my fall and winter term to pay the remaining $2467. The question is how much do I have for a month from the beginning of September to the end of April? The calculation is straightforward as follows: ($5833 + 8*$500 - $2467)/8 = $921. I will have $921 for the first eight months! Can you survive in Toronto with this money? Yes, you can. But you will have to share an apartment with a lot of people and be very discipline with your money. The bright side is during summer, you will have around $1958 per month.

Now, we turn to the case where I will use part of my major funding for the spring term to pay for tuition. For the first 8 months, my monthly available income is ($5833 + 8*$500)/8 = $1229. This would give you more freedom in choosing a place to stay. But your income during the summer may suffer a bit if you rely on the spring term funding. You income during summer would be ($5833 + 4*$500 - $2467)/4 = $1341. Overall, this income is a bit more balanced. Do note that you might be charge with some interest on your tuition using this scheme.

Back then, I went with the first scheme because of being afraid of accumulating interest on my tuition and not having enough income. I lived in quite a low quality place. Now that I think back on it, perhaps it was better to go with the second scheme. I can assure you that the monthly income resulting from the second scheme would be sufficient for getting a good place to stay and live a very simple lifestyle. However, you won't have enough money to do shopping (this true in both cases). In the next post, I will share some tips on how to manage your money and get more income at UofT.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Sir, I am a student from India aiming to join UofT for graduate studies for MASc in Biomedical Engg. I have done my bachelors in electronics and communication.
    Can you plzz tell me the fee structure for my course for fall 2015?
    Is the funding you mentioned above is for domestic students or International??


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