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Report: Affordability issues force B.C. post-secondary students to work more while studying

September 20, 2017, Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, B.C. – A new report released today by Vancity indicates B.C. students are working more and accumulating more debt than their Canadian counterparts.

The report, Earning While Learning: The growing financial pressure and its impact on B.C.'s post-secondary students, found that 64 per cent of B.C. post-secondary students are working part-time compared to 59 per cent of Canadian students. The average number of hours worked per week is 19.3 hours for B.C. students compared to 16.4 hours for Canada students.

The percentage of B.C. post-secondary students working part-time and the average number of hours they worked both increased almost 20 per cent from 2003 to 2015, while there was little change for Canadian students overall during the same period.

Nationwide there has been a huge shift towards working while studying over the last 40 years – in 1976 it was reported that only 27 per cent of Canadian post-secondary students worked part-time.

B.C. students are also accumulating more debt: from 2000 to 2015, the average debt of student borrowers upon graduation in B.C. increased 52 per cent to $30,586, while for Canadian student borrowers it increased only 32 per cent to $26,819 during the same period.

The report also found:

  • From 2009 to 2015, the number of B.C. students reporting a negative impact from working while attending university rose 51 per cent (to 44 per cent), while those reporting it having a positive affect declined 36 per cent (to 22 per cent).
  • From 1996 to 2016, tuition rates in B.C. increased an average of 4.1 per cent annually – more than twice the average annual provincial inflation rate of 1.9 per cent during the same period.
  • The percentage of Canadian graduating students reporting they had employment lined up upon graduation decreased 32 per cent to 31 per cent in 2015 from 45.8 per cent in 1997.
  • From 1996 to 2016, the number of full-time workers aged 20 to 24 in B.C. increased 19 per cent, while the number of part-time workers increased 61 per cent.

While we work towards creating affordable post-secondary education and training, there remains a persistent need for the temporary fixes that government savings programs and grants provide. If current participation and contribution rates continue, B.C. families could miss out on $4.6 billion in education grants in their children's lifetime, an average of $5,561 per eligible child. This is due to low participation rates in the two main grant programs: the Canada Education Savings Grant has 53.9 per cent participation and the Canada Learning Bond has 38.3 per cent participation.

Recommendations include students and families starting to plan early, school and businesses offering meaningful work opportunities and government restructuring the RESP program to tie it into the Canada Child Benefit.


“Students are facing a tough road with education costs that continue to outpace inflation, as well as a precarious employment environment. That means It's more important than ever for students and where possible, their families, to start planning and saving early.” Sophie Salcito, investment advisor at Vancity

Additional information

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About Vancity

Vancity is a values-based financial co-operative serving the needs of its more than 523,000 member-owners and their communities in the Coast Salish and Kwakwaka’wakw territories, with 59 branches in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Victoria, Squamish and Alert Bay. With $25.6 billion in assets and assets under administration, Vancity is Canada’s largest community credit union. Vancity uses its assets to help improve the financial well-being of its members while at the same time helping to develop healthy communities that are socially, economically and environmentally sustainable.

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For more information:

Brent Shearer | Vancity
T: 778-837-0394


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