EDITORIAL: University, college grads are in good shape

Is massive student loan debt situation less common than tuition fee protesters might have us believe?

With Grade 12 students on the West Shore and elsewhere currently charting their transition from high school to post-secondary studies, employment or travel, a provincial government bulletin issued last week caught our eye.

The Ministry of Advanced Education trumpeted a series of planning resources that soon-to-be graduates can use to guide their decision-making when it comes to selecting a pathway for higher education.

Under the umbrella B.C. Student Outcomes, research was done with nearly 9,000 former B.C. students two years removed from post-secondary graduation. They were asked, among other things, whether they were working in their field of study and how well they were prepared to do so.

In an era where stories of university or college graduates working as servers or in other jobs unrelated to their field of study seem common, it was refreshing to read that two years post-grad, 73 per cent were working in a job either very related or somewhat related to their education. Of those surveyed, 85 per cent felt their education was useful for getting a job.

Securing a good job is one thing, but for many, paying off the cost of education is another concern, as recent student protests on rising tuition fees in B.C. made clear.

A surprisingly low 48 per cent of respondents  incurred debt to pay for the program from which they graduated, with the median amount borrowed $22,000. Among the 36 per cent of total borrowers who used government student loans to pay for school, 74 per cent had paid them off two years out, while the average remaining for those who still owed was $19,000 – about the same as the average car loan.

It would be easy to get caught up in all the noise about tuition fees and the financial burden they can create for years afterward. No one enjoys being saddled with long-term debt that isn’t a home mortgage.

But it seems clear that the majority of post-secondary students aren’t in that situation. For those who are still finding paying off student loans five or 10 years out, they may have to deal with their debt the way the rest of the population does: pay what you can afford.

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