Rear View Of University Students Walking Through The Park

2017 Update on the Cost of Post-Secondary Education

Do you have a son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandson or granddaughter attending post-secondary education this year? Since you have a vested interest, you’re probably curious how much education costs these days. Post-secondary education is a lot more expensive than the “good, old days”. In fact, many students without the benefit of a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) are being forced to take on massive amounts of debt to finance their education.

In honour of Education Savings Week (running November 19th to 25th), here’s a breakdown of how college and university students are spending their money these days.

How expensive is post-secondary education in 2017?

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but students who live at home generally spend a lot less attending post-secondary education than those who live  on campus or rent a place nearby.  A student living under the roof of mom and dad can expect to spend an average of a little under $10K a year ($9,300 to be exact).

But living at home isn’t always an option. Some students choose to live away from home to enjoy the “university experience,” while others are forced to. For example, if your parents live in Toronto, but you’d like to attend a prestigious university like Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, living at home isn’t practical or realistic. In these cases, students will need to find a place to rent.

Students who live away from home could spend about double compared to those living at home – an average of $20,000 a year (Source: Keep mind that this is only an average. Some students are spending even more. University of Toronto may be a top-ranked university, but it also comes with a hefty price tag. Students attending U of T can expect to spend an average of $23,485 there. Ryerson University is second on the list at $23,066. (And in case you’re wondering, not all the expensive universities are in Toronto; Saint Mary’s in Halifax is third on the list at $22,892).

How are students spending their money?

We all know that tuition fees are a major expense for students, but did you know that this isn’t the top expense for some students? In fact, according to a survey by MoneySense magazine, for students living away from home, about 40 percent of their income goes towards rent, compared to only 34 percent towards tuition.

Students like to complain about the cost of textbooks, but they’re only spending four percent of their income on that. They’re spending a lot more on groceries (eight percent) and food on campus (five percent). Although your son or daughter may not like to hear this, but interestingly enough, students spend almost as much on booze as they do on textbooks (three percent of their income).

Attending university without incurring a lot of debt

The findings of this survey should be an eye-opening experience. It just goes to show you that there are other expenses besides tuition and textbooks for students. The so-called “small” expenses – groceries, dining out and alcohol – can quickly add up.

So how do students graduate without a lot of debt? If your son or daughter isn’t fortunate enough to have an RESP, there are still ways to save money and stretch their education dollars further. For example, instead of going out for drinks Thursday through Saturday night, cut it back to once or twice a week, and you’ll cut your alcohol cost in half right there. Looking to save on transportation? Try to live within walking distance of the school, or consider taking public transit or biking instead.

With Canadian students accumulating an average of about $15,500 in student debt, every little bit of saving through frugal living helps a lot.