BDO poll: Three-quarters of Canadian graduates under 40 regret taking on student debt

With the average student debt load at $16,816, many wish they had lived more frugally and kept a budget when they were in school.

TORONTO, September 19, 2017 /CNW/ – Student debt isn’t just a concern for recent grads. Two-thirds of Canadians under 40 with a degree or diploma say they graduated with student debt, owing just over $22-thousand at the time. And 62% of them are still paying off those debts today, with the expectation that they’ll need another five years on average to become debt-free.

Canadian grads expressed other regrets, including not working more hours while in university and taking on other forms of debt, like credit cards or a car loan, when they were in school.

Canadian graduates offer advice to future students
Addressing future generations, half of graduates say students should be willing to make financial sacrifices while in school, and recommend that those planning to attend college or university start looking for a part-time or summer job in high school. Four in 10 (39%) graduates even suggested that high school grads spend a year or two after high school working and saving for their post-secondary studies.
Nearly one-quarter have taken a job outside their chosen field to help pay off their debts, while 20% have used a Repayment Assistance Plan from the government to help with debt, and 19% have taken on another job in addition to working full time.
“We were surprised to see so many Canadians carrying student debt well into their 30s,” says Doug Jones, President of BDO Canada Limited. “We’ve seen that student debt can delay some of life’s milestones, like getting married, buying a home or saving for retirement, and with interest rates rising again, those student debts could take even longer to pay off.”

Key Poll Findings (**For full tabular results, please visit the Ipsos website at
Graduates still paying off student debts

  • Four in ten (38%) graduates who finished school with student debts are now debt-free today
  • One in three (33%) owe up to $10,000
  • One in ten (11%) owe $10,001-$20,000
  • One in ten (14%) owe $20,001-$50,000
  • 3% owe more than $50,000

Student debts across the country—here’s what they still owe

Province/Region Average debt at graduation
(among the 67% who graduated with debt)
Current student debt
(among the 62% of those who graduated with debt and still have debt)
Atlantic Canada $28,413 $24,184
British Columbia $25,482 $18,981
Alberta $23,088 $19,496
Ontario $22,785 $16,501
Manitoba/Saskatchewan $19,686 $15,204
Quebec $16,578 $12,624

Those who are still paying off their student debts say it will take them another 4.8 years, on average, to pay them off. Just 10% think they’ll need less than a year to clear their debt load. One in five (18%) think they’ll be paying down their student debt for 10-20 years.

Almost all graduates who still have student debt have had to scale back

  • 53% say they’ve cut back on things like clothing, gym memberships or dining out
  • 46% have reduced living expenses on internet service, cell phones or groceries
  • 44% have cut back on vacations or avoided taking them
  • 26% have lived at home to keep costs down
  • 14% have used cash to pay for everything

Biggest student debt regrets

Wished they’d lived more frugally or had a budget while in school 30%
Not working more hours at a side job during school 28%
Adding to other debts (like credit card debts or vehicle loans) during college or university 25%
Wished they’d chosen a degree or diploma that had better employment prospects 21%
Not borrowing less than what was offered 20%
Not attending a less expensive school 15%
Not applying to a local college or university in order to live at home 9%
Not choosing a two-year diploma instead of a four-year degree 9%

Life goals delayed due to student debt

Not saving enough for emergencies 55%
Delayed a home purchase 46%
Not saving enough for retirement 45%
Not paying down other debts fast enough 33%
Delayed having children 24%
Delayed marriage 21%
Delayed working in their chosen field 16%

About BDO Canada Limited’s Financial Recovery Services practice:
BDO Canada Limited’s Financial Recovery Services practice is one of Canada’s oldest (operating since 1958) and largest debt help firms, with offices across the country. BDO’s advisors include Licensed Insolvency Trustees (Officers of the Court and licensed by the OSB) and Proposal Administrators providing credit counseling, consumer proposals and personal bankruptcy services.
These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between August 16 and August 31, 2017, on behalf of BDO. For this survey, a sample of 2,212 Canadians aged 21-39 with a completed college diploma or university degree from Ipsos’ online panel was interviewed online. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ±2.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians aged 21-39 with a completed college diploma or university degree been polled.

SOURCE BDO Canada Limited
For further information: Media inquiries please contact: Jennifer Williamson at Environics Communications, 416-969-2826, [email protected]