Post-secondary students seek bankruptcy advice

A Calgary bankruptcy advisor is seeing more post-secondary students coming to his office because of student debt loads. And as another school year is about to start, he’s got some advice for them.

Nearly half of students worry about covering tuition and living expenses, says CIBC poll

Nearly half of students in Canada are most worried about covering their upcoming school year's tuition, living expenses or repaying their loans, according to a new CIBC poll. (CBC)

A Calgary bankruptcy advisor is seeing more post-secondary students coming to his office because of student debt loads.

University of Calgary student Bilal Ahmed estimates he'll owe about $40,000 by the time he graduates. (CBC)

As another school year is about to start, Bruce Alger has some advice for them.

"You've got to keep your student loan as low as you possibly can regardless of temptation to take the spring break trip to Mexico," he said, warning there is no guarantee of a good-paying job once you graduate.

A new CIBC poll of nearly 1,000 post-secondary students indicates job prospects are a worry, but so is the amount of debt students are racking up.

$25,000-plus in loans

Among the main findings of the report:

  • 48 per cent of students are most worried about covering their upcoming school year's tuition and living expenses or repaying their student and school-related debt.

  • 37 per cent of post-secondary students say finding a job that pays well after graduation is their top concern.

  • 36 per cent expect to owe $25,000 or more when they graduate.

The "or more" falls in line with Bilal Ahmed's estimate of how much he'll owe. 

"Yeah, I'm probably going to be around $40,000," said the fourth-year University of Calgary biological sciences student.

Ahmed has already started to do his homework for a plan to repay the money.

"They actually ask for very little in return every month. Like I mean, you can pay more, but the minimum that they ask for is very little, so I thought I could easily handle that if I do take more."

Even if he does take the slower route to pay it off, Alger has some advice. Though payments may look small, they will eat away your paycheque and affect other important day-to-day expenses like a mortgage, groceries and other bills,

Beware the credit card hawkers

Alger also warns students not to get into the credit card trap.

"You've got to think about the other credit and debt that you are incurring as well," said Alger. "There won't be a student campus in Canada where you don't see all these major credit card companies hawking cards to students. If you use that credit card you have to pay off that balance every month. You should never accumulate a balance on your credit card as a student."

Kristina Siroishka thinks she can manage. The third-year kinesiology student, who is considering going to medical school, thinks a good repayment plan will help.

"I paid for my first year with scholarships, and then second year I needed a little bit more because work didn't cover all of it. And this year I wanted to move out, so I took some out."

Medical school will mean borrowing more money, but she's optimistic.  

"I think if I have a good enough plan to pay it back then, it'll be OK," Siroishka said.


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