A recent poll among nearly 1,200 Canadians who attended a post-secondary institution revealed students who self-identify as part of the LGBTQ2+ community are more likely to leave school with higher-than-average student debt.
The results, published on Sept. 17, showed 66 per cent of those who identify as LGBTQ2+ left school with student debt over $10,000 compared to 50 per cent of those who don't identify. More significantly, nine per cent of those who identify as LGBTQ2+ left school with debt exceeding $70,000 compared to one per cent of those who don't identify.
Marie Fiedler, the previous coordinator of PrideWestern, explained a number of factors may contribute to increased debt load within the LGBTQ2+ community.
“A lot of it leads back to rates of family support for individuals who are part of the LGBTQ2+ community and homelessness within the LGBTQ2+ community,” said Fiedler.
Fiedler explained families often cut off financial support as well as other forms of support when they find out their child identifies as part of the LGBTQ2+ community.
“That [was] very common when I was working with PrideWestern,” she added. “We definitely worked with a number of individuals who had been kicked out of their homes, whose parents had been paying for their tuition up until that point, and that is an extremely trying and turbulent situation to be in.”
According to a 2017 study, around 20 per cent of homeless youth in Toronto are part of the LGBTQ2+ community. Further, the study identifies family conflict as a major cause of youth homelessness in Canada, especially for LGBTQ2+ youth.
Fiedler added minority groups typically experience high levels of trauma and mental health-related struggles, which make it harder to access part-time jobs or higher-paying jobs. She explained LGBTQ2+ individuals may be inclined to take larger loans if they require additional forms of support to complete their studies.
Further, Fiedler explained many students feel they are denied access to jobs and social resources due to their identity. A 2017 survey showed 40 per cent of LGBTQ2+ individuals experienced discrimination in the workplace.
The poll also showed 28 per cent of LGBTQ2+ community members compared to 23 per cent of non-members took a second job to pay off student debt, 31 per cent of LGBTQ2+ community members compared to 20 per cent of non-members had significant career plan changes because of student debt, and 76 per cent of LGBTQ2+ community members found a student loan to be "very" important, compared to 68 per cent of non-members.
With recognition of the difficulties that LGBTQ2+ individuals face, Fiedler emphasized the need for increased attention and resources to address the community's needs.