The steep costs associated with college and university are taking a growing toll on the finances of both students and their parents, a recent survey reveals.

The Student Debt Survey, a Leger poll of 1,557 Canadians, was conducted on behalf of FP Canada (formerly Financial Planning Standards Council, or FPSC), a national professional body dedicated to fostering better financial health for Canadians. The survey follows a similar poll conducted by FPSC in 2017.

The survey reveals that eight-in-10 (82%) Canadians with children under 18 say they intend to assist their children with post-secondary costs—and they’re expecting this to have an even bigger long-term impact on their finances than they were two years ago. Nearly half of parents (48%) say they expect that providing this financial support will cause them to postpone their retirement—up from 41% in FP Canada’s 2017 survey. And, 42% say they expect it will prevent them from paying off debt, up slightly from 40% in 2017.

Exam and Young People.jpg

Two-thirds have helped children with post-secondary costs

Two-thirds (67%) of Canadians with children over the age of 18 say they have assisted their children with post-secondary costs. For some of those parents, that support has had a big impact on their financial situation:

  • One-in-five (20%) say assisting their kids with education costs has prevented them from paying off debt. That number is even higher in Ontario (26%) and Atlantic Canada (23%).

  • Sixteen percent say providing that support has forced them to postpone their retirement. That’s the case for nearly a quarter of Atlantic Canadians with adult children (23%) and one-in-five respondents in Manitoba and Saskatchewan (19%).

A financial plan can help

Only one-third of Canadians say they are familiar with tax credits, grants and other financial assistance programs associated with post-secondary costs.

“Between tuition, textbooks, housing and meals, post-secondary education comes with a big price tag. It’s clear that many Canadians are making major financial sacrifices to help their kids with these costs,” says Kelley Keehn, author, personal finance educator and Consumer Advocate for FP Canada. “A Certified Financial Planner® professional can help you take advantage of the tax credits and other tools at your disposal. With the right plan in place, you can help your children without jeopardizing your own financial well-being.”

Student debt postpones big life milestones


Approximately one third of parents (31%) say their children graduated or will graduate from college or university with more than $10,000 in student debt. These high levels of debt are especially common in Atlantic Canada (43%) and Alberta (37%).

This debt load is causing many young Canadians to postpone some big life milestones. One-in-five Canadians with adult children (19%) say student debt has caused their children to postpone buying a home, and one-in-10 say student debt has caused their children to postpone moving out. Adult children in Atlantic Canada are most likely to have postponed buying a home (25%), and those in Ontario are most likely to have postponed flying the coop (15%).

Canadians with children under 18 are expecting student debt to have a much bigger impact on their kids. More than half say they expect student debt will force their kids to postpone buying a home (51%), with even higher percentages in BC (61%), Alberta (58%) and Ontario (58%). Four-in-10 (42%) say they expect their kids to postpone moving out due to student debt.

The full results of the Student Debt Survey can be found here.

About the Student Debt Survey

Leger conducted a survey of 1,557 Canadians between April 26-29, 2019 using its online panel. The margin of error for this study was +/-2.5%, 19 times out of 20.

To find a Certified Financial Planner® professional in your area that will help guide you financially, use our Find Your Planner tool.

For the latest financial planning advice delivered right to your mailbox, sign up for our free newsletter, Here's the Plan™.