Media releases | September 22, 2010

This press release was originally published on the CCL website on September 22, 2010

As students in Canada’s post-secondary institutions settle into the new academic year, a new report from the Canadian Council on Learning (CCL) shows that many of them are taking on higher debt-loads than in the past. Tallying the Costs of Post-secondary Education: The Challenge of Managing Student Debt and Loan Repayment in Canada delves into the current state of the Canada Student Loans Program (CSLP) and examines the impact it is having on the present and future lives of Canadian students.

Between 1990 and 2000, the average debt for a university graduate more than doubled. By 2009, the average debt for university graduates was $26,680, while the average for college graduates was $13,600.This rise in debt-loads coincides with recent news that the CSLP had for the first time reached its maximum level of $15 billion, requiring further allocation of funds.

“This report points to some of the long-term consequences of incurring large debts, sometimes involving postponement of milestones of life, like having children or owning a house. They can also impact choice of career, possibly to public detriment,” says Dr. Paul Cappon, President and CEO of CCL.

Graduates of PSE who have accumulated large debt-loads (more than $20,000) were less likely to own their homes or to have saved for retirement than graduates who were debt-free. Tallying the Costs of Post-secondary Education: The Challenge of Managing Student Debt and Loan Repayment in Canada, is the third installment in CCL’s monograph series Challenges in Canadian Post-secondary Education, which focuses on critical issues in Canada’s PSE sector.

In addition to exploring current levels of record student debt, it also examines competing models of debt repayment and deals with key questions potential PSE students and parents ask, such as: Are the benefits of PSE worth the financial risk? Is a potential high debt-load forcing some to forego PSE? Are more students borrowing? Have tuition increases resulted in financial hardship for students? How much student debt is too much? Is Canada’s financial aid system too muddled?

“The student loan system should be made more intelligible through a streamlined federal-provincial approach, resulting in a less complicated ‘one student, one loan’ reality throughout the country,” says Cappon. “With so little information about private PSE institutions, no Canadian system of PSE accreditation, and no national quality review agency, students are denied sufficient and objective information in ascertaining value for money invested in PSE. These are some of the reasons Canada desperately needs a national PSE strategy.”This paper, along with the previous in the series, is available on CCL’s website at:

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The Canadian Council on Learning is an independent, not-for-profit corporation. Its mandate is to provide evidence-based information to Canadians so they can make the best decisions about learning throughout all stages of life, from early childhood through to the senior years.