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Financial aid guide for university and college students in Canada

What is the cost of that help? A 2021 Canadian University Survey Consortium survey of graduating students found that 46% of students finished school with debt: “The average debt among all students is just over $13,000, but doubles to almost $29,000 when only those reporting debt are considered.” In addition, it noted, “Students required over $17,000 to finance their current year of education, most commonly relying on parents, family or spouse, government loans, and current employment.”

For many grads, that amount of debt can be crippling. According to an eight-year study by independent personal insolvency firm Hoyes, Michalos & Associates Inc., approximately 22,000 former students filed for bankruptcy in 2018 to address their student debt.

These numbers can be unsettling to hear as a student, or as a parent. This student financial aid guide can help you understand your options, how the programs work, and how to apply and qualify for them. Remember, you have nothing to lose from applying!

How much does college or university school really cost in Canada?

As you probably already know, going to college or university is a big investment. A study conducted by Maclean’s in 2018 found that a university education in Canada costs $19,498 per year on average. And college tuition rates aren’t far behind, depending on what you study.

Beyond tuition fees, there are many additional expenses during your time in college or university. Here’s a breakdown of the remaining factors that contribute to the average annual cost of post-secondary education in Canada, based on the answers of 23,348 students surveyed for the Maclean’s study:

  • Rent: $8,000
  • Groceries: $1,560
  • Food on campus: $975
  • Books/course materials: $780
  • Travelling home: $780
  • Alcohol: $585
  • Public transit: $390
  • Extracurricular activities: $195

Students who live at home while going to school can save a good chunk of money. Here are more tips on saving money for university and college students in Canada.

What financial aid is available for students in Canada?

The federal and provincial/territorial governments offer financial aid to both part-time and full-time university and college students in Canada.

The Government of Canada’s Canada Student Loans Program (CSLP) provides financial assistance to students on the basis of financial need. The amount of funding given to help pay for expenses such as tuition, school supplies and living expenses is determined by numerous factors such as family income, tuition, program length and whether you’re enrolled full- or part-time, and school-related expenses, as noted above. For a better idea of how much student aid you may be eligible for, check out the Student Financial Assistance Estimator.


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