It feels like there’s an assumption for most people that student loan debt is inevitable. But what if, instead of figuring out how to pay back a crippling bill with even more painful interest, we were able to prevent debt in the first place? One of the solutions to this is educating students much earlier about finances and student loans. Here are seven things that could help students anticipate their debt — and maybe even reduce it:

1. Financial education should start in high school. It is mind blowing that we expect 17 and 18 year-olds to make the major financial decision to incur debt without first teaching them about money. Then once in post-secondary, the sweeping majority of students do not take even one personal finance class prior to graduation. During university they’re expected to know how to pay their bills (including those student loans), manage a budget, and maintain good credit without ever being taught how. These skills should be taught through classes, and students should attend counseling prior to signing a loan application.

3. If you can’t afford it, don’t apply. This is a simple rule that should be apply to any and every financial decision one makes in their lives. Yes financial conversations are tough, but they’re ever harder when you’ve received that thick, happy acceptance letter and are already picturing themselves attending. 

4. We should teach high school students that four-year residential schools are one option, but they aren’t the only option. For some students, it may be advantageous to start their journey at a local school. They are usually a fantastic option both to save money, and for more individualized attention. If the student doesn’t have scholarships, or a living allowance provided to them, their debt will rack up faster than they can imagine. 

5. We need to discuss alternative solutions to university with students in a positive way. At some point, a degree has come to be the requisite continuation of a student’s education. Students are made to feel like if they don’t go to university, they’ll be seen as a failure. Wrong: and adults need to stop scaring teenagers into making major life decisions. If a student is passionate about something then they should be encouraged to further their education in a way that suits their future career, rather than wasting both time and money attending a four-year school to get a degree they have no interest in using. Who knows? They may change their mind and want to go to university after all!

6. A gap year should be an option. It’s simple: most 18-year-olds don’t know exactly what they want to do with their lives, and/or they may not be mature enough to handle university just yet. For years, students are told exactly what classes to take, when they have to be in class, and are held accountable for doing their work. And then, magically at 18, they’re expected to do all of those things by themselves, sometimes hundreds or thousands of miles away from anyone they know… 

7. Show students that if you expect university to be like a resort, the costs will reflect. Part of the reason university is so expensive is because students (and their parents) have come to expect all sorts of amenities and guess what? Amenities cost money. Someone has to foot the bill, and usually, it’s the students.

By equipping young adults with the tools they need to make smart financial decisions, we enable them to set themselves up for a minimal debt — or maybe even debt-free — start to the rest of their lives.

The Government of Canada website has excellent resources for calculating your budget and assist with options for  education funding.

We hope this helps, and of course, for any specific questions do not hesitate to contact us: info@kbh.ca