OTTAWA (CUP) 8212; A new report from a national education think-tank suggests students are shouldering higher debt loads than ever before, and are facing much greater financial disadvantages as graduates.
According to the results outlined in “Tallying the Costs of Post-secondary Education: The Challenge of Managing Student Debt and Loan Repayment in Canada,” released on Sept. 22 by the Canadian Council on Learning, the average debt for graduates more than doubled between 1990 and 2000.
Additionally, in 2009, the average university graduate left school with $26,680 in debt, while their average college counterpart racked up $13,600.
Paul Cappon, president and CEO of CCL, explained there are specific courses of action governments can take to ease the financial burden on Canadian students.
“I think the main thing to achieve is to make it clear that the system needs to be simplified, that there needs to be a “one student, one loan’ system throughout Canada,” he said, noting that the ideal model would be “harmonized, coherent and co-operative with all levels of government.”
The CCL’s study, the third instalment in a four-part series entitled “Challenges in Canadian Post-secondary Education,” noted that little research has been conducted previously to examine the impact of debt on graduates of post-secondary institutions. Their report, for example, found that students who graduated with debt over $20,000 were less likely to own homes or save for retirement.
The report also detailed the CCL’s concern that potential students may feel discouraged from attending university and college because of the financial burdens associated with studies. Cappon pointed out that Canadian students need more information about higher education in advance of applying, in order to make informed decisions.
“What we would like the government to do is make it clear to students what the value of their money is,” he said. “Students deserve to know what experience they can expect … [they] need to know and deserve to know the experiences of people who have gone through those programs, and how they’ve done. There’s [currently] no national data strategy for Canada.”
Cappon explained the intent of the report was less about pin-pointing levels of debt or tuition price tags that are acceptable, and more about bringing to light the reality of the situation in Canada and the lasting impact of debt on graduates.
He also hopes the report will encourage politicians and policymakers across the country to work on a national post-secondary education strategy.
“We want the government to set up a national forum on post-secondary education so that these issues would be discussed openly in a public forum 8212; so that it isn’t just a closed discussion with people in government,” he said.
Ideally, according to Cappon, this forum would lead to the creation of national standards for quality and data collection in terms of higher education and eventually a cohesive, cross-country higher education strategy.
In fact, the CCL’s fourth and last report in the higher learning-focused series will be centred on the potential implementation of a national higher education plan.
“The last one in the series will be to respond to questions I get most from parliaments regarding this national agenda: How we do it and who does what,” he said. “[It will] spell out exactly how we think Canada could create a national post-secondary education strategy within the current constitutional framework we have.”
Cappon expects the report to be released at the end of the fall.