LGBTQ+ students facing debt deserve university support

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As LGBTQ+ students face disproportionate student debt in Canada, it’s up to universities to support them in their struggles. 
 
Forum Research has conducted the first Canadian survey on student debt accounting for sexual orientation, and it’s revealed LGBTQ+ students are more likely to rack up student debt and consequently make drastic lifestyle changes to get by. 
 
According to the survey, 76 per cent of LGBTQ+ respondents said a student loan was essential to getting an education—compared to 68 per cent of non-LGBTQ+ students. 66 per cent LGBTQ+ individuals owed more than $10,000, compared with 50 per cent non-LGBTQ+.
 
Society benefits from well-educated young people. When our institutions allow debt to disproportionately affect marginalized people, they decide who benefits from education—and who can achieve the positions of professional and personal privilege that come from higher education. 
 
Institutional privilege has consequences. It’s the responsibility of universities and colleges to implement actions that level the playing field. The Forum Research poll brings this to the forefront. 
 
Many LGBTQ+ students face a lack of emotional and financial familial support. After coming out, these individuals may be kicked out of their homes or unexpectedly denied previously-promised tuition or rent. 
 
This particularly impacts transgender students. Not only might their families deny them basic monetary support, but many students also face medical expenses their insurance doesn’t cover, from surgery to day-to-day needs such as chest binders. 
 
Post-secondary education comes with countless restrictive expenditures: long-term housing, meal plans and hidden fees. Universities already offer supports for students struggling with these demands, from emergency student housing to various student wellness services. 
 
But if a group on campus is overwhelmingly saddled with these concerns that restrict their capacity to access education, it’s a problem. 
 
As student service providers, universities have the resources and obligation to improve crisis counselling services and develop an affordable range of housing and meal plans.  
 
This might take time, and more research must be done—but now that this dialogue has started, it’s critical to take it further. 
 
It’s unfair these students feel marginalized in so many ways for simply seeking educations. Financial instability and a lack of support when seeking education has lifelong repercussions.
 
If universities help students now, they’ll learn ways to generate income and establish healthier states of mind. Providing counsellors to assist with a young person’s mental health needs and offering financial planning resources could make a world of difference.
 
No student should ever feel prohibited by their desire to pursue higher education—and it’s incumbent on educational institutions to minimize that weight wherever possible.  
 
— Journal Editorial Board
 

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