A postsecondary education has plenty of benefits. After all, it often leads to better career options and higher incomes.
Consider a 2014 analysis by the British Columbia government that found postsecondary graduates earn between $500,000 and almost $2-million more in wages over their lifetime than workers with only a high-school diploma.
But a postsecondary education is becoming more expensive by the year. In 2018, tuition increased by 3.3 per cent on average across Canada to $6,838 a year. That was a quicker pace than inflation at 2.24 per cent – and some provinces have seen even faster increases.
That said, most experts agree the investment of time, effort and money is worth it, so long as students have a clear sense of how a postsecondary education will benefit their career pursuits and personal development.
David Lee, a certified financial planner with Blueshore Financial in North Vancouver, suggests investing in your own or your children’s postsecondary education is similar to investing for retirement.
“With retirement, you’re seeking to grow your hard-earned money,” he says. “With education, you’re seeking to grow yourself.”
Of course, retirement is best achieved with a good plan. That, too, applies to pursuing a postsecondary education.
Many take on student loans to pay for the cost. Student association president at the University of Winnipeg Meagan Malcolm says a 2017 report on student finances at the postsecondary institution show 36 per cent of students reported having student loans.
Ms. Malcolm says she suspects that number has grown given tuition has jumped more than 10 per cent in the past two years.
“This year tuition increased by 3.7 per cent, and last year the University of Winnipeg raised it by 6.6 per cent,” she says. “That really translates into increasing barriers to accessing postsecondary education.”
Of most concern are visible minorities – Indigenous students, individuals with disabilities and people of colour – who are more likely to not have the economic resources to absorb rising costs, she says.
“People will always recommend applying for bursaries and grants,” but these are not as accessible as they could be. Statistics Canada data show low-income Canadians receive more than 75 per cent of grants available, worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
That figure pales in comparison, however, to the more than $2-billion in loans students take on annually, according to the same Statscan data.
Given the rising costs, considering how a postsecondary education will improve career opportunities is becoming much more important, says financial educator Kyle Prevost, who hosts the Canadian Financial Summit, which promotes Canadians taking control over their investments.
“There is a massive difference between the cheque you need to write to become an electrician and the one needed to become a dentist,” he says, adding that while the former costs a few thousand dollars to complete, the latter may cost more than $100,000 in tuition alone.
Of course, another important consideration is “quantifying how much fun and self-fulfillment you will receive from time spent in an enriching environment,” adds Mr. Prevost, who is also a teacher at a Manitoba high school.
Parents can help their children with costs, contributing money to a registered education savings plan or by simply providing free room and board.
Indeed, completing a degree while living at home can save students thousands of dollars over a four-year degree, says Scott Hannah, chief executive officer of Credit Counselling Society in Vancouver.
But he also suggests new high-school graduates should consider working for at least a year before deciding on a postsecondary path, or working part-time while in postsecondary and full-time in the summer.
“Oftentimes, it’s better to delay it, get a job and put some money aside,” he says.
“A common problem we see at Credit Counselling Society is individuals who cannot find their career job and are challenged to make ends meet and repay their loan.”
Mr. Lee adds that’s why careful planning is critical to long-term success while in school and, even more so, upon graduating.
After all, he says, “the main reason for a postsecondary education is to increase your value and have more skills toward earning higher income in the future.”