Average Student Debt in Canada: 13 Telling Statistics

No matter how much fun student life brings, high tuition costs, soaring rental prices, and the cost of school supplies all diminish students’ enjoyment quite a bit. The reality is – most Canadian students have to rely on student loans to cover their educational expenses. And when the time comes to repay their debt, a number of students struggle to keep their heads above water.

We’ve compiled a list of telling statistics on the average student debt in Canada and the debt crises that are threatening the country’s student population.

Student Debt Statistics – Editor’s Choice

  • In July 2020, the total amount of student loan debt was over $22.3 billion.
  • The maximum amount of student grants for full-time students was $6,000 in 2021.
  • Tuition fees in October 2022 showed an increase of 0.3% to 5.7%.
  • In the 2020-2021 school year, 61% of all loan recipients were women.
  • Medical students’ median debt was $90,000 in 2022.
  • In 2018, almost one in five insolvencies were caused by student debt.
  • It takes 10 years, on average, to pay off student loans in Canada.

General Student Debt Statistics

If you’re struggling to make your student loan payments and considering debt consolidation options, you might be interested in knowing the basic stats and facts that can shed some light on the problem. Below you’ll find our top picks.

1. In July 2020, the total amount of student loan debt was over $22.3 billion.

(Canadian Federation of Students)

The Canadian Federation of Students reported that the total student loan debt surpassed $22.3 billion in July 2020. Data pertaining to 2019 showed that the average student loan debt in Canada was around $28,000 per debtor (bachelor’s and master’s students), whereas doctoral students owed $33,000 on average.

The federation attributed the issue to the impact of COVID-19 and suggested a series of measures to curb the rising debt load, including mental health support and support for international students and indigenous learners.

2. More than 1.7 million Canadians owed money for student loans in 2017.


The number of student loan recipients was a steep 1.7 million in the 2016/2017 school year, according to Canada’s student debt stats. Based on the sheer number of debtors who owe the federal government, we can conclude that there is a student debt crisis in Canada. Even though there is no new data to confirm the assumption, the figures have likely grown significantly over these five years.

3. The maximum amount of student grants for full-time students was $6,000 in 2021.

(Government of Canada)

The Canadian government began doubling the Canada Student Grants to support students throughout COVID-19. That way, full-time students received a $6,000 maximum amount of student grants, while part-time students were entitled to $3,600. Compared to 2019 figures, it’s a 50% increase. The measure will, however, lead to long-term growth of the average student debt in Canada.

No matter the prognosis, the federal government announced it’s planning on extending the measure until the end of July 2023.

4. Tuition fees in October 2022 increased 0.3%-5.7%.

(Statistics Canada)

With the rising inflation, tuition fees have increased in all states for full-time postsecondary students. Tuition rose negligibly in Ontario, 0.3% on average, while students in Alberta had to cope with a substantial 5.7% increase. These figures are only worsening the average Canadian student debt load and making it even more difficult for students across the country.

5. The current student loan interest rate is 5.95% (variable) and 7.95% (fixed rate).


As of November 23, 2022, the fixed interest rate has jumped to a whopping 7.95%, whereas the variable rate has reached 5.95%. Knowing that the figures were much lower and that the average national student loan interest rate used to be 2.5%, it’s clearer than ever that the rising inflation and economic crisis have affected the student population to a substantial extent.

Demographic Stats and Facts

When it comes to the student population in Canada, the average student debt is not equally distributed among demographic groups. Here are some statistics on the typical loan receiver according to demographic factors:

6. Most loan recipients belong to the 20-24 age group.

(Government of Canada)

According to the annual “2020 to 2021 Canada Student Financial Assistance Program statistical review”, most student loan borrowers belong to the 20-24 age group, while only 2% of those who received Canada Student Grants and/or Canada Student Loans are 50 years and older. Those below 20 years of age account for 24% of all borrowers.

7. During the 2020-2021 school year, 61% of all loan recipients were women.

(Government of Canada)

In respect of average student debt, Canada has a majority of female students applying for financial assistance and incurring debt as a result. Specifically, most of the borrowers who received Canada Student Grants were female, accounting for $1.96 billion.

Knowing the average student loan interest rate and the gender gap when it comes to hiring, it’s evident that the female population will meet more difficulties when paying off student loan debt down the line.

8. Only 6% of Indigenous students are granted a student loan.

(Government of Canada)

Around 32,160 Indigenous students received Canada Student Grants, making up 6% of the total number of loan recipients. The total amount they were granted in the school year of 2020-2021 was 222.9 million.

Finding this sum insufficient, the Canadian Federation of Students appealed to the government to allocate more resources toward postsecondary institutions that implement programs for helping the Indigenous student population and preserving their culture.

9. Medical students’ median amount of debt was $90,000 in 2022.


The 2022 Graduation Questionnaire Reports indicate that the average debt of a medical student in Canada has reached $90,000, with the top 12% of loan users having more than $200,000 in debt. It’s no wonder that Canadian medical students are the most indebted of all, considering the high costs of their education, which can go up to $100,000.

10. More than half of student loan borrowers are undergraduates.

(Government of Canada)

Figures indicate that 379,639, or 56% of all students who were granted a student loan were undergraduate students. The 2020 to 2021 Canada Student Financial Assistance Program statistical review also showed that certificate or diploma-level borrowers accounted for 38%, while only 1% of Ph.D. students received Canada Student Grants and Canada Student Loans.

Statistics on Paying Off Student Loans

How are students across Canada dealing with their student loan debts and financial issues? We’ve gathered the relevant statistics on the way the student population is paying back what they owe.

11. The government has extended its financial assistance plans for student loan repayment until 2023.

(Government of Canada)

To further assist the already burdened student population throughout the pandemic, the government has issued a six-month moratorium on all student loan repayment. Moreover, the interest accrual on all student and apprentice loans in 2021-22 was suspended. This year, the Canadian government has extended its repayment assistance plans until March 31, 2023.

12. The average time to pay off student loans in Canada is 10 years.

(TD Canada Trust)

It takes approximately 10 years for an average Canadian student to pay off their student loan, according to the TD Canada Trust report. Government loans provide students with a six-month grace period after graduation, during which they are not required to make any payments. However, time passes quickly, and debts tend to accrue if there are no payments. That’s why it’s advisable to find ways to save money for a rainy day while paying off your debts.

13. In 2018, almost one in five insolvencies were caused by student debt.

(Canadian Federation of Students)

The number of students who declare bankruptcy is drastically increasing. For instance, nearly one out of every five insolvencies in 2018 in Ontario was filed due to student debt. The number of those who struggle to pay off student loans is on the rise, and the 2018 figures indicated a historic high in the previous decade.

Closing Thoughts

Taking government student loans or private student loans from the federal government and private institutions has been on the rise in recent years. According to the statistics we have compiled, the number of insolvencies due to student debt is soaring, too.

The Canadian government is trying to curb the daunting trend with its repayment assistance plans and similar measures. But still, high student loan debts and the lack of savings are the main reasons millennials go through financial hardships.

It’s noteworthy that the biggest debtors are still among the most vulnerable population: women and Indigenous people. We hope our statistics on the average student debt in Canada will shed some light on the struggles young people are dealing with while attending universities across the country.


How much student debt is normal?

The general suggestion is that the student loan amount, combined with other expected debts, including car and rent payments, shouldn’t exceed 33% of a person’s expected source of income in the future. As such, students should think about their long-term financial situation before applying for a loan.

Do Canadians have a lot of student debt?

With a total student loan debt of more than $22.3 billion in July 2020, Canadians are definitely struggling with debt loads. Knowing that the average time it takes to repay these loans is 10 years and that close to one in five insolvencies were caused by student debt, the economic pressure Canadian households are under needs to be properly addressed.

What is the average student debt in Canada?

The 2019 report by Statistics Canada revealed that the average debt load was $28,000 per debtor for bachelor’s and master’s students and $33,000 for doctoral students.


Milica Milenkovic
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