As tuition costs continue to rise in Canada, many students are taking on increasing amounts of student loan debt.
Additionally, an undergraduate (and maybe even graduate) degree is required for many professional careers.
The average cost of living for students in Canada is around $800 to $900 per month, not including rent, utilities, or tuition expenses. These latter expenses can vary significantly, depending on your living status and where you attend university.
Below, I’ll outline the average cost of living for students in Canada, show you how much the average international and Canadian student pays for tuition, and explain how student loans can help.
Arguably, one of the most significant factors that determines the cost of living in Canada is the amount of tuition you need to pay to attend university. Tuition is typically charged on an annual basis, and can vary significantly, depending on the university you attend and whether or not you’re a permanent resident of Canada.
Based on these factors, the cost of tuition in Canada can range between $5,000 and $50,000.
The most important factor determining the cost of tuition for Canadian students is their residency status. Although the cost of living remains similar for both groups, Canadian citizens and permanent residents are entitled to drastically lower tuition than international students.
According to the latest 2022 report by Statistics Canada, the average Canadian student paid $6,834 for tuition. This doesn’t account for any scholarships or education grants you may have received.
The cost of tuition varies, depending on the university you plan on attending as well as your field of study. Education and liberal arts fields tend to incur lower tuition costs compared to studies related to law or medicine, which are both prerequisites to apply for law school or medical school for graduate studies.
Here’s a quick look at the average cost of undergraduate tuition for Canadian residents, divided by their chosen major:
|Major||Average Undergraduate Tuition For Canadian Residents|
|Visual and performing arts, communications technologies||$6,135|
|Business and business management||$7,207|
|Mathematics and computer science||$7,012|
The amount you’ll pay for tuition typically coincides with the average level of income that professionals within these fields earn. For example, dentists, doctors, lawyers, and engineers, often earn more than those with a communications degree or an education degree.
Here’s where you’ll notice a huge difference. The average tuition cost for international students attending university in Canada for their undergraduate degree was $36,123 in 2022.
This means that international students pay an average of $30,000 more for annual tuition than their Canadian counterparts.
Here’s a breakdown of what an international student would have to pay in tuition fees for the same fields of study:
|Major||Average Undergraduate Tuition For International Students|
|Visual and performing arts, communications technologies||$46,980|
|Business and business management||$33,901|
|Mathematics and computer science||$39,000|
Although this may seem unfair, it’s also how Canadian universities are able to keep tuition costs affordable for Canadian residents. In the US, for example, Americans pay an average of $19,000 for tuition, which is triple what Canadians pay for tuition in their home country.
The difference in tuition costs will likely be the main differentiator when it comes to the amount of debt each student must take on to earn their undergraduate degree. Despite this, the overall cost of daily living remains similar between undergraduates, graduates, international and Canadian students.
Although living costs may be covered, in part, by your student loans, many students may also pay many of their own living expenses out-of-pocket, with a part-time job or with help from an RESP fund that their parents or guardians saved for them.
The main expenses that students have to pay (apart from tuition) include the following:
- Food and entertainment
- School supplies
- Transportation costs
According to the latest data from Numbeo, the average cost of living for a single adult living in Canada is $896 per month, not including rent and utilities.
1. Housing & Accommodations
Housing and accommodations can vary significantly, depending on whether you’re living on or off-campus. Many undergraduates live on campus during their first year or two to save money.
College dormitories can cost between $5,000 and $8,000 per year, which is often cheaper compared to the price that students would pay for an apartment in the city.
Off-campus living offers substantially more freedom, privacy, and space. However, it’s also more expensive. According to a recent CTV report, the average rent in Canada is more than $2,000 per month. Most students choose to reduce this by living with multiple roommates and splitting expenses.
In addition to the rent you’ll need to pay for off-campus living, you’ll also need to pay for utilities, such as:
- Renter’s insurance
These can easily end up costing you an additional $150 to $300 per month.
If you’re living on-campus in college, it’s very unlikely that your dormitory offers a kitchen space. You might get a small microwave, but that’s about it. As a result, students often end up spending a significant amount of money on meals.
Although students may receive discounts by eating at the campus cafeteria, most universities still tack meal plans on to your overall tuition. If you ever get bored of cafeteria food and want to eat somewhere else, you’ll have to pay full price for meals at restaurants around the city.
As a student, you’re also going to want to have a bit of fun, go out to the movies, attend concerts, and enjoy your time out of class. This is going to run up additional entertainment expenses.
All in all, food and entertainment can cost students between $400 and $500 per month.
As a student, you’ll need to purchase textbooks for each class you take. Brand-new textbooks can cost over $100 each. While used textbooks may be a bit cheaper, they’re still relatively expensive. On average, undergraduate students may end up paying between $500 and $800 per year for textbooks.
One of the best ways to reduce textbook costs is to sell your old textbooks online through a textbook broker. This will allow you to earn around half of the money you spent on the books back, which can then be applied to textbooks for your new classes.
Last but not least, you’ll need to account for transportation costs. If you’re living on campus, then you’ll usually be able to take advantage of campus shuttles if you’re not close enough to walk to class.
However, if you live off-campus, then you may need to pay extra money for Ubers, public transportation, or buy a vehicle to drive to campus. If you’re living in a major city, parking spots for your vehicle (even on-campus) may also require a monthly fee that can range between $50 and $100 per month.
The cost of living for graduate students is nearly identical to the cost of living for undergraduate students. The main difference is that by the time they’re graduate students, many students are living off-campus, which incurs extra expenses for rent and utilities.
Graduate tuition fees for Canadian residents cost a similar amount to tuition paid by undergraduate students. In some cases, graduate tuition may even be a little lower.
Here’s what you can expect to pay for graduate-level tuition in Canada as a permanent resident:
|Major||Average Graduate Tuition For Canadian Residents|
|Visual and performing arts, communications technologies||$5,681|
|Business and business management||$14,823|
|Mathematics and computer science||$8,902|
Similar to undergraduate costs, international students will also pay higher tuition for graduate studies than their Canadian counterparts. On average, international students in Canada pay $21,111 per year in tuition for their graduate programs.
Here’s what international students would pay in tuition for the same degrees mentioned above:
|Major||Average Graduate Tuition For International Students|
|Visual and performing arts, communications technologies||$16,895|
|Business and business management||$27,875|
|Mathematics and computer science||$19,865|
Attending university as a Canadian is relatively affordable, especially considering what students in the US pay for tuition and living expenses. However, it can be very expensive for international students.
The majority of international and Canadian students receive some kind of financial aid or take out student loans from the government or private lenders. These can help cover the cost of living for students in Canada while they pursue their degrees and professional career.
Once they graduate and start earning money with their degree, they’re expected to pay their loans back, though. Keep on reading to learn more about your options for student loans and how to apply for them!