One in Four Students at This Ontario School Has a Maxed-Out Credit Card

It gets worse if you’re gay or a person of colour, according to a new study.
April 6, 2017, 2:50pm

OCAD's student union has put out a survey that will probably confirm your preconceived notions about the financial situations facing students—whether you think they're a screwed generation, or just some dumb art kids who don't understand money.

The student union's Money Matters Survey asked hundreds of students a bunch of questions about debt, school fees, food insecurity, and how they're managing financial stress. Needless to say, respondents didn't express much faith in their financial futures.


The survey found just over 25 percent of students had a maxed-out credit card. That went up to 30.2 percent among queer-identifying students.

The average Canadian holds roughly $20,000 in consumer debt (which doesn't include mortgages), according to TransUnion.

Pablo Munoz, campaigns director for the student union, told VICE we shouldn't dismiss those numbers as entitled young people going through that phase where they think credit cards have magical free money on them. He says it speaks to rising school fees and debt levels that are disproportionately impacting queer and trans students, disabled students, and students of colour.

"You're going to have to take whatever job you can right out of school to pay down that debt," he said of the kids' post-grad prospects. "Only the people from more comfortable economic backgrounds, where you have parents paying your tuition, will be able to wait for a job in their field."

Credit cards obviously aren't the only debt OCAD students are dealing with. Sixty percent had a government-issued student loan, and 18.3 percent had another loan from a bank, according to the survey.

A significant chunk of respondents said they were struggling to pay for school. A quarter of all students said they had to take time off school to catch up with their finances, which went up to nearly 30 percent among students of colour.

Another 61.6 percent said their grades had suffered because of financial problems, or 65.9 percent among students of colour.


Even more students were having a hard time affording day-to-day expenses. Nearly three-quarters of all students responded that they had to choose between life essentials and school supplies, and 16 percent said they were making that kind of choice regularly. For non-white respondents, nearly 80 percent had to make that choice at least once.

Students surveyed were also pretty pessimistic about their financial prospects after school. Only 22.8 percent said they felt confident that their degree will lead to "financial opportunities"—a finding that worried Munoz.

"Creative jobs are ones that will not disappear with automation," he said. "Why are future designers not feeling like they've got a place in this economy?"

Admittedly, the data is small—10 percent of students at one art school in Toronto—but as far as Munoz can tell, no other school has ever asked such detailed personal finance questions, which means we can't easily compare business and engineering students' situations.

However, OCAD's student union is committed to asking these questions again, and helping other student groups do the same.

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Lead Image via Flickr user Jason Baker