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Canada’s friendliest cities for students

by Laura Marchand November 10, 2015

A look at the cost of living, going out and job prospects for students

It’s no secret that Canada is becoming increasingly urban; according to Statistics Canada, 81 per cent of Canadians live in urban centres. Compare this to the turn of the 20th century, when 63 per cent of Canadians—representing over three million people—still lived rurally.

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One popular explanation is the flocking of millennials to Canada’s biggest cities. The narrative of a student leaving their small town for university in the big city is a familiar one, and according to Statistics Canada, they’re also the most likely to stay: in a satisfaction survey, young Canadians were the happiest group living in town.

But even if a student can afford tuition, living in the city has its costs—some places more than others. The Concordian, in collaboration with the national team from the Canadian University Press, gathered data on the affordability of living in Canada’s biggest and brightest cities. Specifically, the cities studied were: Calgary, Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax and Toronto.

The following information details what the average student can expect to pay in rent, transportation (student rates) and recreation, in addition to the job prospects in the area.

No city is completely affordable: even Vancouver—whose rent is predictably high—offers free transportation with tuition. Toronto, who suffers from high rent and transit costs, also has some of the best job prospects in the country.  If you plan on going out for a night on the town, Halifax has the nation’s cheapest beer on average, but suffers from middling job opportunities (unless you’re a dentist).

Those considering leaving Montreal for greener pastures will find a mixed bag: out of the country’s major cities, Montreal offers the cheapest rent, with average transit costs and affordable beer. However, job seekers will have better odds elsewhere: those in health, finances, and engineering can find employment easily in Calgary and Toronto. It should be noted that health care professionals of all stripes are in high demand across the country, regardless of location.

While studying, the vast majority of students get by on minimum wage. While Quebec offers $10.55 an hour, other provinces (including those with high rent) make a lot more: your hourly toil is worth $11.25 in Ontario, and $11.20 in Alberta. Those willing to brave the cold can earn $12.50 an hour working in the Northwest Territories, the highest minimum wage in the country.

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