Thousands of Canadian students struggle to pay for school. Canada’s not waiting for this to end.

Ontario’s education minister is urging students to return to class amid rising concerns over the cost of attending post-secondary schools. Stephanie Cadieux made the statement in Ottawa on Friday, after an education summit in…

Thousands of Canadian students struggle to pay for school. Canada's not waiting for this to end.

Ontario’s education minister is urging students to return to class amid rising concerns over the cost of attending post-secondary schools.

Stephanie Cadieux made the statement in Ottawa on Friday, after an education summit in Dartmouth, N.S., where she heard from student groups about the steep cost of tuition.

University tuition cost more than $10,000 last year for an average of 190,181 students, according to the province’s Higher Education Quality Council. At the same time, per-unit or monthly tuition expenses amounted to about $1,321, a cost group officials say is escalating in coming years.

“It’s something that’s being important to all of us,” Cadieux said in an interview. “Students need to get back in the classroom.”

“I think it’s important that parents and students are aware that when these price increases occur, it does affect their ability to be able to go to school,” she said.

After a recent Forum of the Canadian Association of Student Associations, which concluded in late July, the association was concerned that fees were increasing in Canada even though interest rates are declining and Canadians are taking out less personal debt.

Last year, student loans in Canada grew almost 5 percent in dollar terms compared with 2014, to reach nearly $61 billion, according to federal data. Meanwhile, the number of students each year rose by 5.3 percent.

The for-profit colleges run by the Kaplan arm of Washington Post Media Group generate most of their revenue from financial aid and tuition. This means that as student debt increases and demand for higher education keeps rising, the schools’ need for cash grows, too.

Accounting for 37 percent of Kaplan’s revenue in the first quarter of 2017, this means that the for-profit colleges could see rising costs. Meanwhile, as Canada’s student debt grows faster than its personal debt in the U.S., it stands to reason that students using that debt to attend for-profit colleges might begin to reconsider.

Kaplan Canada, which has 2,000 campuses in Canada, is considered a best school on Kaplan’s rankings because of the large number of students it attracts. Last year, the school had total student credit enrolment of 209,189, up 13 percent from 2015, according to academic directories covering enrolment, according to a report in The Globe and Mail.

Students and parents who pay off their debts may find that the average monthly net cost to them increases even as interest rates fall.

“Student debt levels in Canada are an incredible drain on Canadian families, and this is creating huge concerns among Canadians,” said Cathy Brennan, CEO of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, in an interview with CBC Radio’s “The House” program.

“More and more Canadians in their forties and fifties are telling me they wish they’d waited a few years before they headed back to school, because even at that age when our average debt level is $30,000 to $40,000, by the time they finish post-secondary school, it’s $60,000,” she said.

Canadian employers have begun expressing similar concerns, with many worried that young people could be deterred from pursuing a post-secondary education because of the financial burden, Bloomberg reported.

“A [post-secondary] education has never been more important to the future of our country than it is today, for it opens up many doors to careers, incomes and employment prospects,” President Barack Obama said in a statement in 2011. “Even now, when thousands of Canadian students can’t afford to attend school and support themselves, we still encourage our students to go back to school, to ensure that they will be successful in a tough, changing economy.”

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