The Cost of a Canadian University Education in Six Charts -

The Cost of a Canadian University Education in Six Charts

Tuition is only part of the cost of going to university. There’s also the cost of books, food, travel and the occasional beer. Here’s how students finance their education


Students living at home spend $9,300 per year on average, For those who move away, it’s closer to $20,000. We asked 23,384 students how they pay for school and where they spend their money. Here’s what they told us.

MORE: Create a university ranking based on what’s most important to you

1. The total average cost of a post-secondary education


2. Where does the money come from to pay for school?

First, the good news: only half of students are in debt. Now the bad: parents are picking up the slack—and not in a very efficient way. Nearly two-thirds of students say they don’t have an RESP.


3. The cost of books by program

Course materials account for a fraction of the total cost of university, but they still add up. Here’s how the least and most expensive programs compare on the cost of books.


4. Debt by year of study

The average level of debt by each year of study, based on responses from more than 11,000 indebted students.


5. Spending on food on campus in a typical week


6. How much do you spend on groceries in a typical week?





The Cost of a Canadian University Education in Six Charts

  1. No doubt, post secondary education has gotten expensive. Many moons ago, I managed to be one of those students who worked their way through university, although that involved not showing up for lectures until October. All of my children worked hard but could never come close to that feat, typically blowing out their lifetime earnings in their first year and never covering more than tuition, if that, on work terms. Fortunately we, their parents, had max’d RESPs, savings, minimal debt and two incomes. It seems that for the most part, access to post secondary education is a wealth privilege. What would be equally of interest would be a survey of post secondary eligible individuals who don’t attend or delay attendance for financial reasons. Some things that auger poorly are accelerated housing costs which eat up family income and resistance to increasing minimum wage which tends to define the earning power of students. Another issue to consider is the variation of tuition based on area of study which may bias students away from so called high cost of delivery programs: this in itself indicates a curious bias where the cost of producing a graduate is more important than their future economic potential / contribution to the economy.
    One thing the numbers show is that post secondary institutions bring a lot of money to a community: the majority of student spending directly and indirectly feed into the local economy. One has to wonder about host communities obsession with the ‘problem of students’. It’s also the case that post graduation retention injects a lot of value into the local economy (retention rates for colleges being higher than universities). The problem is not how much value post secondary institutions add to the economy but how much more it could add with less financial impediment (the old expense versus investment dichotomy).