A poll of post-secondary students who borrow to pay for their education suggests 58 per cent expect to graduate with close to $20,000 in debt while another 21 per cent expect to owe more than $40,000, the Bank of Montreal said Friday.

The poll done for BMO done last month also suggests more students – 27 per cent – are most stressed about paying for school, higher than the 22 per cent who rank their biggest worry as finding a job or the 20 per cent who have as their top concern getting good marks.

Statistics published by the federal government put the total cost of a post-secondary education — including tuition, school supplies, housing and other expenses — at $14,500 a year, or nearly $60,000 for a four-year program.

The average undergraduate tuition in Canada is $5,366, according to Statistics Canada.

Half of sample use loans

Thirty-two per cent of those polled said they will have significant trouble paying their bills while at school, while 27 per cent will have just enough money to cover their expenses.

"Despite their level of optimism entering the school year, many students are handling a number of priorities on their own for the first time, including managing their own finances, so it's no surprise that this can cause some anxiety," said BMO vice president Lily Capriotti in a release.

In the same release as it announced the results of its poll, BMO promoted various products it targets toward people who borrow to cover education expenses. 

The survey found nearly half, or 49 per cent, of those sampled are using loans to cover school expenses.

Of those, 44 per cent expect to pay off their student debt within five years after graduation.

The Canadian Federation of Students has estimated that on average, student debt is almost $27,000, and according to the Canada Student Loan Program, most students take nearly 10 years to pay off their loans.

Ongoing protests against rising tuition have become an issue in Quebec's provincial election campaign.

The survey of 1,018 Canadian post-secondary students was conducted by Pollara between July 19 and July 26 and had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points. Respondents came from an online panel, with results weighted by age, gender, and region, with the aim of representing all Canadian post-secondary students.