As they don their caps and gowns this week, post-secondary class of 2013 grads are facing the future saddled with the highest levels of debt in Canadian history.


Calgary students graduating this week from university may have large student loan debts. (CBC)

Federal student debt in Canada exceeds $15 billion, plus another $5 to $8 billion in credit card debts, lines of credit and provincial loans, according to Ottawa.

Calgary's Janene Vermeire, who is a single mother, is leaving Mount Royal University with an honours degree — and $60,000 in debt.

"I can pay it off over a span of 15 years. At what point am I going to get ahead? I'm never going to get ahead. Like, when am I going to start saving money to buy a house?" she said.

According to bankruptcy trustee Shawn Stack, graduates who are struggling can get help restructuring their debts — except the student loan, which can't be restructured for seven years.

"Someone can effectively go into bankruptcy, which is the last option of course, and have the other debt discharged, but the interest on the student loan keeps growing. So they're still essentially saddled with it," he said.

He said grads need to start making a five- to 10-year plan to tackle their debt — the same way they plan their careers.