University Student Debt – Part 2

A quick internet search found a number of sites concerned with financing university education in Canada. Other countries have similar sites.

Carleton University provides current estimates of annual undergraduate education costs as of June 2013 at


Tuition                      $6,613.00 to $9,780.00

Room and Board     $8,863.00 to $9,531.00

Off-campus living     $7,600.00

Books and Supplies  $1,300.00

Personal expenses    $2,000.00

 Approx cost for one academic year:  $18,776.00 to $22,611.00

* International undergraduate student fees range from $18,805 to $22,158  (CDN)

The high fees for foreign students appear somewhat amazing but are probably the same at other universities. The differential may bias enrollment towards foreign students which cost no more to educate than domestic students. In Australia, where a similar fee differential occurs, it has lead to Australian students complaining that they are outnumbered by foreigners. In the UK, and probably elsewhere, science programs have high enrollments from Asian students.

Larry Willmore points out that the government subsidy per student for domestic students may be higher than for foreign students, and this may help to explain the differential. (A topic for future investigation).
The following is a quoted extract from the Canadian Alliance of Students Association website at


  • If you can finance your education through scholarships + work+ family, fine. But if you can’t, don’t assume you have no choice but to pile on the government loans and private loans and credit card debt. Get serious about cutting your costs….
  • And by getting serious, I don’t mean the usual stuff you hear, like get a cheaper student chequing account. I mean, think-outside-the-box serious. The election is over, so vote for affordable education with your choices.
  • Stay at home the first 2 years and attend your local community college before you transfer to take your 1/2-price degree from Big U. Get your education in a cheaper province. Or get it in a cheaper country (just check the transfer credits first). Or seriously think about the trades. When was the last time you met a plumber working as a barista because he couldn’t find work in his field and he had to pay off student loans?

These comments are interesting, apart from some of the questionable grammar. First is the recognition that costs can be reduced by living at home, but second is that interesting and rewarding careers can be found in the trades, which have often been considered (by my generation) as less desirable jobs.

The following extract comes from a finance writer and journalist who follows student financing issues:

“In fairness to our (Canadian) federal government, it has programs under the Financial Consumer Agency (FCAC) that help Canadian students save by improving their financial literacy.   Start with The Moneybelt. Debt Reduction and Money-Saving Tips from Memorial University of Newfoundland.”

Many of their tips will help students no matter where they live. Also see

Jeannine Mitchell, Founder

Student Finance 101

Jeannine Mitchell is an award-winning finance writer and a former associate editor with Financial Post Moneywise magazine. Her work is widely published and her non-profit website — Student Finance 101 at has been featured in publications ranging from campus and online newspapers to the National Post.

The main arguments by student organizations follow the familiar line that education promotes economic growth and that the costs are repaid in later years through taxation of higher incomes. Similar arguments are made for other government supplied and supported goods and services. Healthcare, for example, should be provided free or at low cost to workers because they can then work longer and pay more taxes. The entitlements provided by the state have to be paid for in some way and most interest groups consider it should be others not them.

In the case of higher education, an issue has been that the overall costs have risen as has the share born by students and their parents. The push back has come most prominently in Quebec where some argue for either frozen fees or their abolition. This tends to force universities to reduce costs and the quality of the educational experience. As Geoffrey Simpson and others have pointed out, the students as well as the state are the ones who will suffer from a diminished educational experience.


Killaine Sharman comments:

I think $20k is a lot of money for most people to pay for their kid’s education, and imagine if you have 2 or 3 kids in school at once, how does that work? The idea of having a job at the same time as you study is fine for some kids, but for me that would have come at the expense of the sports I did and competing on the Carleton X-C ski team which was the primary source of my identity as an undergrad.  Had I been forced to forego that and fill my weekends with shifts behind the Safeway cash register instead, I’m not sure who I’d be today but I’m sure it would be a lesser and less unique, less rounded, and less fulfilled person. Along the same lines, what about people who are parents, or caring for older parents, or people who have artistic or musical interests they’d like some time to pursue. I think the idea that we all just work and go to school for 4 years has the potential to create a really boring culture and a group of very one-dimensional and probably disgruntled people. 

I don’t know what the answer is to a more affordable education, but I suspect it is a balance between working, saving and borrowing, but I’m not sure what the proportions should be or what it is. How much do students typically borrow per degree. How many students don’t go to school because of the cost. I think it is important to understand these things to know if we even have a problem.  I do think education should be available to people of different income levels and not be a dividing line between rich and poor, continuing to perpetuate cycles of poverty.

With regards to foreign students, I think the higher their tuitions the better. Their education in Canada is nothing but a privilege and we have no obligation to them but to provide the service they are paying for. 


Ole Bredberg comments:

Paid work during the university years is an effective way to pay the bills. Working part-time during school (16 hrs / week * 32 weeks * $10.25 / hr Ontario minimum wage = $5,248) and full-time during the summer (40 hrs / week * 16 weeks * $10.25 / hr = $6,560) would generate about $11,808 pre-tax (not much tax on that amount), which is 52% of the upper end of your total cost range of $22,611, and this is at the minimum wage and only 16 hours per week during school. This is something I think an ambitious, focused, resourceful, and hard working student should be able to achieve, and it would greatly impress any prospective employer upon graduation.


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