02/23/2015 02:30 EST | Updated 04/25/2015 05:59 EDT

No debt for most B.C. post-secondary students says Andrew Wilkinson

Very few students in B.C. graduate from post-secondary school with debt according to B.C.'s Minister of Advanced Education.

"We see that 70 per cent of students go through their higher education with no debt whatsoever," Wilkinson told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

"That's either through family means or from working part time. That's a very healthy figure."

He said for those who do end school with debt have on average $10,000 debt for a college education, and about $20,000 debt for a university education.

Wilkinson was touting a new report from B.C.'s Ministry Advanced Education that shows a post-secondary degree increases a person's earnings by an average of $827,000 over their lifetime.

Zachary Crispin with the Canadian Federation of Students' BC Branch said many people in B.C. still never have access to some of the programs with higher return.

"The fact of the matter is that the programs that have the highest return — the medicine programs, the law programs, those sorts of things — the tuition fees for those programs are significantly higher than most families can afford in this province," he said.

"There's no financial aid that truly assists people in going through these programs without incurring an immense amount of debt."

Wilkinson said the anecdotes about students going deep in debt don't match his numbers.

"We have this thesis out there that students are going $100,000 in debt to get an education. It's extremely rare that that happens."

To hear the full interview with B.C.'s Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson, click the audio labelled: Andrew Wilkinson says 70 per cent of post-secondary students graduate debt-free.