Cost of post-secondary education

Going to school after high school can be costly.

A student attending CEGEP, trade school, college or university full-time today can expect to pay between $2,500 and $6,500 per year—or more—in tuition. Books, supplies, student fees, transportation, housing and other expenses will only add to that total.

In fact, full-time students in Canada paid an average of $16,600 for post-secondary schooling in 2014–2015. That is more than $66,000 for a four-year program.

Despite that, it remains a great investment. Here is what you should keep in mind:

Cost breakdown

Understanding the costs involved will help you make smart money decisions while you are in school. Here are some of the costs you can expect:


This number can be difficult to pinpoint. Costs may vary for different reasons.

  • Program choice

    Some programs charge more than others so look at these costs up front.
  • Co-op

    Co-operative education programs usually last longer and cost more than regular full-time programs. However, you may find the benefits of co-op programs outweigh the higher costs. Co-op students are often paid for their work and they gain great work experience.
  • Class type

    The format of lectures, the amount of lab time needed and the number of teaching assistants may affect fees.
  • Other factors

    The school’s location (city vs. country, for example), the type of school and the years of schooling required are other factors that can also have an impact on costs.

Student fees

Some schools charge extra to fund certain services, clubs and events.

Living expenses

Rent, food, power, gas, telephone and Internet bills can really add up. For example, on- or near-campus residence fees can be more of $8,000 (including a meal plan). This can double or, in some instances, triple your expenses.


Books can also be expensive. Several options are available to you in this regard.

  • School bookstore

    Having new books each semester is great but it can be an expensive choice.
  • Second-hand books

    With the right amount of time and patience, buying used books can be a much less expensive option. Visit used bookstores or look for signs and pamphlets around campus that list used books for sale.
  • Borrow books

    If you know someone who has already taken the same course, why not ask to borrow the books?
  • Buy books online

    You can get both new and used books online. But be patient because shipping may take a while.
  • Buying in bulk

    If you get together with your friends, you may get a discount for buying in bulk.
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