In Brief: COVID-19 IMPACTS on Postsecondary Education Planning

Vanier Institute’s In Brief Series: Mobilizing Research on Families in Canada

Diana Gerasimov

February 19, 2021

STUDY: Bonikowska, A., and M. Frenette. “Postsecondary Education Planning Before and During the COVID-19 Lockdown,” StatCan COVID-19: Data to Insights for a Better Canada, Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 45-28-0001 (January 27, 2021). Link:

Family finances are diverse and complex, and families find many ways to support their child(ren)’s postsecondary education. While COVID-19 has created a great deal of uncertainty and economic instability over the past year, survey data from Statistics Canada suggest that between February and June 2020, COVID didn’t have a major impact on parents’ expectations about their children pursuing postsecondary education, though it has broadened how they are considering providing support.

  • Postsecondary education remains as high of a priority for families, despite the economic uncertainty impacts of COVID-19.
  • In May/June 2020, 92% of surveyed parents said they expected their child to pursue postsecondary studies – a slight decline from 94% of those surveyed in February/March 2020.
  • In May/June 2020, 54% of children had parents who said they planned to save in the future for their children’s postsecondary education, up from 46% of those whose parents were asked before lockdown measures were enacted in mid-March 2020.
  • Conversely, share of children whose parents said they did not expect to put aside funds also increased, from 18% to 25%.

Among parents who expected their children to pursue a postsecondary education, the proportion who reported that they have already put aside education savings did not vary much during this period.

However, this contrasted with expectations for parents who, prior to the pandemic, had not already begun saving for their children’s education. The pandemic appears to have “polarized” expectations about future savings among parents who have not yet begun saving for their children’s postsecondary education.

With the economic uncertainty brought about by COVID-19, a growing share of parents say they are considering a broader range of alternative approaches to providing support to their children than they had before the pandemic – regardless of whether they had started saving or not.

During lockdown, these supports included providing free housing or use of a vehicle (86%), selling assets (18%) and assisting paying off loans (48%).

Diana Gerasimov holds a bachelor’s degree from Concordia University in Communication and Cultural Studies.

Read the full study

Related resources:

Modern Family Finances: Students in Canada

Parents’ Thoughts on Post-Pandemic Future in Canada

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