According to Statistics Canada, after an initial decline in consumer prices in the first quarter of 2020, the Canadian economy experienced a period of rising inflation. In March 2021, the year-over-year rate of consumer inflation reached 2.2%, doubling to 4.4% by September 2021.
Among the hardest affected are low-income students as they need to meet academic demands while finding ways to adequately support themselves throughout the year.
In April 2022, 63 percent of Canadians in the bottom fifth of income earners reported being very concerned about their ability to meet everyday expenses. About 19 percent of them reported having to borrow money from friends or relatives or take on additional debt to meet day-to-day expenses. (Statistics Canada)
The CEO and National Director of Student Support, Ajamu Attard, is all too familiar with this situation, because he himself experienced poverty as a student in high school. After navigating a rocky family situation, young Attard found himself in a shelter for some time before the family of a friend offered to take him in.
Attard eventually went on to launch Student Support with his fellow co-founders Brent Colby and Scott Braddon while attending Carleton University, and their mission was simple: make essential support and services affordable to all students, regardless of their background or income.
Student Support is a for-profit enterprise changing the game for low-income students. The organization packages services from providers like Udemy, Calm, Aaptiv, and Nimbus Learning and provides them to students for a fraction of the cost.
Students enrolled in postsecondary institutions can choose to opt in to get access to the bundle of services for a fraction of the cost, which amounts to less than $50 per year. This allows them to save on mental health supports, education services, writing aids and even their gym membership.
That’s not all – Student Support is currently speaking with communications providers across the country to source affordable phone and internet plans and eventually package them for students as well.
Their mission, however, is fraught with challenges. Scott Braddon, CFO and COO of Student Support explains, “Sometimes you need to get the students on-board before you get the service providers, and sometimes you need to get the service providers on-board before you get the students.”
The young entrepreneur, however, is not daunted by the challenge. A systems nut and a fan of business automation, Braddon has devoted his energy and expertise to ensuring Student Support runs smoothly, efficiently and on a tight budget while he and his co-founders can strategize and liaise with major service providers across the country.
Part of the role of the co-founders at Student Support is more than just acquiring services to provide to students at a more affordable cost, but it’s also advocacy. Advocating for the mental and physical wellbeing of students is paramount in those conversations.
Corporate Social Responsibility is a top priority among major organizations, and through Student Support service providers have a social responsibility and incentive to provide their services more affordably to struggling students.
Brent Colby, Director of Marketing at Student Support, was eager to elaborate on Student Support’s ongoing mission.
“We offer some incredible services right now. But we’re not stopping there. We want to make life more affordable for students because then one of the main reasons why students have anxiety and have depression is related to financial concerns,” says Colby.
“Being a student takes a lot of time and resources, and lots of students can barely afford to live and survive. They’re eating ramen noodles and Kraft dinner and barely able to pay rent.”
Colby continues, “If we can make life in general more affordable for students, through more essential services that are beyond the current services that we offer, we really do think that we can make the world an even better place.”
“Because education is happening everywhere in the world.”