LGBTQ2S+ students saddled with more debt, poll shows

Posted on September 17th, 2018

A new poll by Forum Research, believed to be the first Canadian survey on student debt to ask about sexual orientation, shows the LGBTQ+ community is harder hit. Members are more likely to rack up greater student debt, take on a second job to pay it off, and make lifestyle changes because of it.

The Forum Poll, conducted by phone in late August, was a random sample of 1,163 Canadians, aged 16 and up, who attended post-secondary school. About one in 10 self-identified as LGBTQ2SIAP+ — this includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, two-spirit, intersex, asexual, or pansexual — and they tended be younger than 45.

The LGBTQ+ respondents were more adversely impacted by student debt, compared with non-LGBTQ+. For starters, they were more likely to say a student loan was very important to getting an education (76 per cent compared with 68 per cent). And, they wound up with more student debt: 66 per cent owed more than $10,000, compared with 50 per cent; and about 10 per cent owed more that $70,000, compared with just 1 per cent of non-LGBTQ+.

Also, those who are LGBTQ+ were more likely to have taken on a second job to pay off their debt (28 per cent compared with 23 per cent), altered their spending lifestyle because of it (48 per cent compared with 33 per cent) and made significant changes to career plans because of it (31 per cent compared with 20 per cent).

David J. Brennan, associate professor at University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, believes lack of family support and mental health costs contribute to the higher debt.

“When people are not engaged with their families — because their families have rejected them for being LGBTQ or because they feel they need to step away from their families for fear of that rejection — they’re not going to have the same kinds of financial supports, and even emotional supports.”

He notes studies show marginalized students have higher rates of mental health issues, and says if they’re not connected to a support network, such as a family, they’re left to manage on their own.

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