Infographic: How Canadian university students are paying their bills

Stereotype of Canadian student spending isn’t the reality


The typical Canadian university student spends four years blowing borrowed money on clothes, music and liquor, right? That may be the stereotype, but it’s not the reality. The Canadian University Survey Consortium’s 2012 study of more than 15,000 graduating students shows that six in 10 are working, the vast majority pay off their credit card bills each month and only one-third have more than $20,000 in debt. Here’s an infographic that shows how students are paying their bills, via Maclean’s On Campus:


Jessie Willms



Infographic: How Canadian university students are paying their bills

  1. That is a somewhat misleading infographic. It seems to include ALL students, even ones from very affluent backgrounds, so the numbers about who has debt aren’t totally representative. Also a lot of their percentages are broken down incrementally, so really it’s not just 33% of students that have dept over $20,000, but closer to 56% of all students with any debt at all who owe over that amount. That in mind, the average debt simply cannot be $14,453 if over half of debtors owe 20,000+. Therefore, the average debt appears to be based on both students with debt and the 41% with no debt (school paid for by summer jobs, parents, savings etc), making it a misrepresentation of the real finances of many graduates. It would be misleading to suggest that students who have their education paid for with, for example, trust funds or personal savings, should be included as students with the same POTENTIAL for debt as someone going in with little to no personal wealth.

    • Well said.

    • I’m still a little confused. Why aren’t the percentages adding up to 100%?

      • Because students get money from various sources. For example, I get a grant and a bursary every year, as well as my student loans, my job, and my honorarium for being on student council.

    • I’m not sure how you figure from this graph that 56% of all students have debt over $20K.

      Graph shows 59% have some kind of debt. Therefore 41% have zero debt.

      The section “How much debt do they have?” appears to be of total students.
      4%+22%+33%=59% (matching the total percentage with some kind of debt). Again, therefore, 41% with zero debt (not shown in this section, which admittedly makes it confusing).

      So, if only 33% OF ALL students (including those with zero debt), have debt over $20K, and average of around 14K seems plausible.

      What is not clear is why the percentages in the “Who’s lending them cash?” section do not add up to at least 100%. The percentages in the “How are they funding…” section are greater than 100 because multiple answers were allowed, which makes sense. But if multiple answers were also allowed for “Who’s lending them…” section (which would also make sense, given likely multiple sources of income), then one would also expect the percentages to be at least equal to 100.

      There are confusing parts of this graph, but I think you’ve misinterpreted something on the %of students with debt and the resulting average debt level.

  2. I want money to buy KFC!!! >.<

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