Finances Worry Canadian College Students More than Grades or Jobs

August 18th, 2012
in News, syndication

MortarBoard-160x115Econintersect:  The academic pressures to perform in college and university courses is a stressful burden for most students.  However, that is not the biggest stress source; paying for college is even bigger.  Stress over finding a job after graduation is also greater than the pressure to get good grades.  But the concern over finding employment is also less than the top stress factor: paying for college.  These results are for Canadian college students surveyed by the Bank of Montreal (NYSE:BMO).

Follow up:

One can only imagine that the situation could be similar (or even worse for finances) in the U.S.  According to the report from BMO the average cost for four years of college expenses in Canada is now $60,000.  The average cost for U.S. colleges and universities was $44,000 in the 2007-2008 academic year, according to U.S News & World ReportUSA Today reported recently that the cost of four years of college rose by 15% between 2008 and 2010,  That would put the U.S. average over $50,000 two years ago.  Extrapolating the same rate of inflation, the academic year just ended would put the average U.S. four-year college costs over $57,000.

That means that college is slightly more expensive on average in Canada.  But, using 2010 data, the most recent Econintersect could find, median family incomes are much higher in Canada than in the U.S., $69,860 in Canada and $45,800 in the U.S.

That puts the ratio of average college costs / median family income at 0.86 in Canada and 1.24 in the U.S.  This measure would imply the college affordability problem is more than 40% greater in the U.S. than in Canada.

Here is the entire BMO press release:

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Aug. 17, 2012) - According to the BMO 2012 Student Survey released today, while the majority (59 per cent) of students are excited for the upcoming school year, the poll showed that paying for school is causing more stress than their academics.

The annual survey, conducted by Pollara, ranked the top sources of stress among post-secondary students, and found one-quarter (27 per cent) are very stressed about paying for school - more so than finding a job after graduation (22 per cent) or achieving success academically (20 per cent).

According to Statistics Canada, the average undergraduate tuition in Canada is $5,366. The total cost for post-secondary education - according to research from the Federal government - including tuition, school supplies, housing and other expenses, amounts to $14,500 a year, or nearly $60,000 for a four-year program.

According to the BMO survey, one-third (32 per cent) say they will have significant trouble paying their bills while at school, while 27 per cent will have just enough money to cover their expenses.

"Despite their level of optimism entering the school year, many students are handling a number of priorities on their own for the first time, including managing their own finances, so it's no surprise that this can cause some anxiety," said Lily Capriotti, Vice President, BMO Bank of Montreal. "However, it's important that students ensure they work with a parent or a financial advisor to put a financial plan in place to help minimize stress during the school year, including finding out about products and resources that are available to them."

The Student Debt Picture

Of the nearly half (49 per cent) of students using loans to help fund post-secondary expenses:

  • The majority (58 per cent) expect to graduate with upwards of $20,000 in debt and one-in-five (21 per cent) expect to owe more than $40,000
  • 44 per cent expect to pay off their student debt within five years after graduation
  • Students in Atlantic Canada expect to accumulate the most debt (25 per cent expect to owe over $40,000), as well as take the longest to pay down their loans (only 30 per cent think they will be able to pay off their debt within five years)

The Canadian Federation of Students notes that average student debt is almost $27,000, and according to the Canada Student Loan Program, most students take nearly 10 years to pay off their loans - with some taking the maximum 14.5 years.

Ms. Capriotti noted that students relying on loans should think about their repayment plan long before graduation. "Students often underestimate the amount of debt they will accumulate or the length of time it will take to pay it off. The BMO Student Budget Calculator is a free tool available on that allows students to create a budget. Also, by using online resources, such as BMO Online Banking's BMO MoneyLogic financial management tool, students can stay on top of their budget by setting customized spending and savings goals."

BMO offers a free* banking option to students, and is the only bank to extend this offer to recent graduates for an extra year. A BMO Student Line of Credit, which charges interest only on what is actually borrowed, allows students to use as little or as much as needed up to their approved credit limit. In addition, students can make interest-only payments while in school and up to one year after graduation.

To learn more about how BMO can help make student life more affordable, during school and after graduation, stop by a BMO branch today or visit here for more details.

For information on BMO MoneyLogic, please visit

The Pollara online survey was completed between July 19 and July 26, 2012, with a sample of 1018 post-secondary students. A probability sample of this size would yield results accurate to ± 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

* Applies to the Kids, Teens and Students Discount Programs in the Plus Plan when a Primary Chequing or Premium Rate Savings account is opened. Recent Post-Secondary School Graduates are eligible for one year of free banking under the Student Discount Program. Customer is responsible for all the fees of any transactions, services and products not included in the Everyday Banking Plan.

John Lounsbury


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