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Recession hitting job-seeking students hard

Veronica Horsman, 21, probably won’t be able to pay next month’s rent on time.

Veronica Horsman, 21, probably won’t be able to pay next month’s rent on time.

But the Halifax resident, who is between two university degrees, said yesterday the financial uncertainty is well worth following her dream of becoming a fashion photographer. Of course, securing a summer job would help soften the blow of facing a debt load of $20,000 and growing.

Horsman, who just graduated from the University of King’s College and starts at NSCAD this September, is one of many students struggling to find employment. Statistics Canada released a report last Friday showing the unemployment rate for students aged 20 to 24 was at 14 per cent last month, the highest for June in 12 years. The unemployment rate jumped 4.8 percentage points over last year’s numbers, which means 43,000 fewer students are holding down jobs.

“I’ve been eating beans and toast for awhile,” Horsman said in downtown Halifax of how she’s cutting corners to save cash, while taking a break from handing out her resume.

She said her passion for photography keeps her motivated. “It’s the only profession that (has) held my interest and heart.”

Mark Coffin, executive director for the Alliance of Nova Scotia Student Associations, said yesterday many students have left Nova Scotia for the summer to try and find work in their home provinces.

He called the stats from the annual Labour Force Survey “alarming for us in Nova Scotia, where students are paying the highest tuition (on average) in Canada.”

Education Department spokesman Dan Harrison said yesterday the province is doing what it can, including signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Nova Scotia’s universities last year that has frozen tuition through 2010-11 and chops the first 20 per cent off student loans.

Kaley Kennedy, Nova Scotia representative for the Canadian Federation of Students, said yesterday the federal government should be stepping up to the plate, but didn’t increase its Canada Summer Jobs program this year.

“This is yet another example of how students have been left out of the government stimulus package.”

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