To nobody’s surprise, university is no cheap feat. But how much does an education really cost?  With the price of rent, groceries and the occasional drink, school fees are only a fraction of the overall price tag, particularly for those who move away from home.

Video: What does a university education cost in Canada?

To nobody's surprise, university is no cheap feat. But how much does an education really cost? With the price of rent, groceries and the occasional drink, school fees are only a fraction of the overall price tag, particularly for those who move away from home.

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University is expensive. Students get that, but how expensive, exactly?  When it comes to comparison shopping between schools, tuition is the easiest number to consider. But for many students—particularly those who move away from home—school fees are only a fraction of the overall price tag.

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To determine the real price of an education in Canada, Maclean’s undertook a first-ever survey of 23,384 undergraduate students to find out how they spend their money—and how they saved for an education. We found the average cost of a year of post-secondary education in Canada is $19,498.75. But for some students, the amount is significantly higher.

A University of Toronto student living off campus can expect to spend $23,485 each year, the highest average amount in our survey. Second on list was Ryerson at $23,066 followed by Saint Mary’s University in Halifax at $22,892. Meanwhile, students living at home and attending Sherbrooke had the lowest costs for an education, at just $4,284.

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In most cases, rent is a bigger expense, but there are other costs to consider: books, booze, extracurriculars and groceries. There are also bus or plane tickets to visit Mom and Dad. Some of these costs seem insignificant, but they add up over the course of a school year.

Students routinely gripe about having to buy $100 textbooks written by their professors, but they don’t calculate how much they’re spending when they go out on a Thursday night (and in some cases Friday and Saturday, too). Come the end of the year, it’s a safe bet they’ll spend almost as much on drinks as they do on books.

Visits home will cost them even more. A typical student will spend up to $800 a year to sleep in their recently vacated childhood bedroom, whereas they’ll only fork out about $700 on books.

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Given the amount of time students spend on campus, it’s inevitable that they will buy food occasionally, spending that amounts to roughly $25 a week. It doesn’t sound like much, but adds up to about $900 over the course of the school year. So what’s the real cost of going to university? You’d better sit down for this. Students living at home can get by spending about $9,300 a year, whereas students who move out should be prepared to spend upwards of $20,000 a year.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that students living off campus face a bigger debt burden. Overall, Canadian students accumulate about $15,500 in debt.

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What does a University Education Cost in Canada?

We asked 23,382 undergraduate students to tell us how much they spend their education. Here's what they told us