Ontario student debt higher than ever

Although debt is at an all-time high, Queen’s loan default rates are lower than the provincial average

Queen’s average student loan default rate in 2011 was 1.2 per cent, which is below average. The average is 3.7 percent for universities in Ontario.
Queen’s average student loan default rate in 2011 was 1.2 per cent, which is below average. The average is 3.7 percent for universities in Ontario.

Students who graduate from Queen’s might be more successful at paying off their loans than students at other Ontario universities.

For Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), students have approximately six months after graduation until their debt repayment bills are sent.

Though only around 30 per cent of Queen’s students receive financial aid of some kind, Queen’s graduates have the lowest default rate, out of any post-secondary institution in Ontario. The default rate is the rate of students who can’t repay their loans.

In 2011, Queen’s had an average student loan default rate of 1.2 per cent, compared to the average default rate of 3.7 per cent at all Ontario universities.

In the same year, universities such as Western University and the University of Toronto had default rates of 2.6 and 3.3 per cent respectively. At the University of Toronto, the default rate rose from 2.9 per cent in 2010.

Approximately 64 per cent of Ontario students receive student loans. Income statistics for Ontario university graduates aren’t collected by OSAP, and OSAP doesn’t collect information on how long it takes to repay their loans.

“What I can say is that OSAP default rates indicate that Queen’s students are demonstrating ability to repay their loans,” Teresa Alms, associate university registrar of student awards, said.

For students who come from low-income families, approximately $12,240 is given in OSAP: $1,680 from the Canada Student Grant and an additional $1,680 from the Ontario Tuition Grant, totaling $15,897.

Despite this, only 46 per cent or $7,300, of this total is repayable. The additional $8,597, or 54 per cent doesn’t need to be repaid.

Isabelle Duchaine, AMS academic affairs commissioner, said the amount of student debt for the average Ontario student is the highest it’s ever been.

“Students accumulated an average of $26,680 in 2009 and ever since then we’ve seen three years consecutive increases of 5 per cent, … you are going to see more students unable to pay or less able to pay or invest in the economy or other means,” Duchaine, ArtSci ’13 said.

“If you are $30,000 in debt, you are less likely to own a house or you will take longer to start a family or continuing to invest in another year of post-secondary education.”

She added that these students may have less economic output than those without debt.

“Those students are less likely to enter and contribute to the economy in a stronger sense, in addition to the personal stress of carrying large amounts of debt,” she said.

Bryan McCann, who came to Queen’s three years ago from Vancouver, will owe approximately $25,000 in student loans after he finishes his commerce degree.

“I wanted to go away to school and if you’re going to go into business at a school where you want to meet new people, you go to Queen’s,” he said.

He added he wanted to go into business specifically to get a high-paying job after graduating.

McCann said he expects to be paid approximately $60,000 after receiving his degree.

Queen’s Business and Commerce programs had a six-month post-graduation employment rate of 91.3 per cent and a two-year post-graduation employment rate of 94.17 per cent.

In contrast, humanities programs at Queen’s, such as political studies and philosophy, have a six-month post-graduation employment rate of 91.67 per cent and a two-year post-graduation employment rate of 89.86 per cent.

Engineering has 6-month rates of 88.57 per cent and two-year rates of 96.61 per cent.

“Most people’s parents pay for tuition, but for me it’s coming from my income,” he said. “That way, I’ll be able to pay off my student loans in around three years.”

He added that in order to avoid an 8 per cent interest accumulation on his loans, he plans to transfer his debt to his bank to reduce interest to 3.3 per cent.

McCann’s student loans are also tax deductible, meaning McCann will have approximately $50-60,000 in tax credit that he said will help pay off his loans.

“Right now I live pretty cheaply so I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing now for a couple of more years,” he said. “I’ll eat cheap groceries.


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