The provincial government led by Premier John Horgan and finance minister Carole James have taken steps to help post-secondary students, but Statistics Canada warns that COVID-19 will stress students dealing with debt. (Black Press Media)

New survey warns of COVID-19 effects on post-secondary debt in Canada

Survey finds 64 per cent of students who graduated in 2015 still had outstanding debt in 2018

A recent survey of post-secondary students found some good news, some bad.

Half of students who graduated in 2015 said they graduated with debt when they completed their program, a figure that changed little from 2000 to 2015. The median amount of student debt at graduation – $17,500 in 2015 – also remained stable for most graduates from 2000 to 2015, according to the survey. The corresponding figure for 2000 was $17,900 in real terms.

This said, student debt varies by level of study. Students pursuing professional degrees recorded the highest median debt at $60,300 in 2015.

“This level of debt was three times that reported by graduates with a bachelor’s degree ($20,000) or with a master’s degree ($19,700),” it reads. These graduates also experienced the greatest change in their debt load from 2000 to 2015, with their debt rising from $39,800 to $60,300 during that period. College graduates recorded the lowest median student debt ($11,500).

RELATED: A student loan freeze, $1,000 payments: Here’s what B.C.’s COVID-19 plan has for you

The survey also found that about two-thirds of students who graduated with debt in 2015 (64 per cent) still had outstanding debt in 2018, a share similar across all levels of study.

The survey also pointed to a more pressing issue – COVID-19. Between February to April 2020 – the peak of the pandemic response – the employment rate fell by 23.6 per cent among students aged 20 to 24. These figures, along with other data, may result in some students having to accumulate more debt to compensate for the loss of income, the report warns. “In addition, recent graduates may experience difficulties finding full-time employment due to the economic conditions, which in turn may affect their ability to repay their student debt,” it reads.

RELATED: COVID-19 a barrier for post-secondary students

Various factors impact student debt repayment rates. Smaller debt size at graduation, higher employment income, living in Ontario and being part of a couple with no children generally contributed to faster debt repayment.

“By contrast, graduating at a relatively older age, living in the Atlantic provinces or in Quebec, being a lone parent and reporting a disability were associated with slower debt repayment,” it reads.


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wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

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