How will your kids pay for higher education?

By Sheryl Smolkin

Going to school after high school can be costly.

A student attending trade school, college, CEGEP 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.

If you are saving for your children’s post-secondary education, give yourself a pat on the back. Canadian parents are ahead of their counterparts in other Western nations in saving for their children’s post-secondary education.

Close to three-quarters (72%) of Canadian parents are saving for their children’s post-secondary education, putting them ahead of parents in the U.S. (65%), Australia (53%) and the U.K. (46%), according to The value of education: foundations for the future report, which includes responses from parents in 15 countries and territories.

However, only 30% of Canadian parents are funding their children’s university or college education through a savings plan specifically for education. Almost one-quarter (22%) are taking that funding from general savings, investments or insurance policies and 66% are using their day-to-day income to get their kids through school.

RESP
That’s a shame because by saving in a registered educational savings plan you are eligible for the Canada Education Savings Grant and the growth in the fund can be tax-sheltered until the student eventually withdraws money for school expenses when he/she is likely to be earning less than you are now.

Employment and Social Development Canada pays a basic CESG of 20% of annual contributions you make to all eligible RESPs for a qualifying child to a maximum CESG of $500 in respect of each beneficiary ($1,000 in CESG if there is unused grant room from a previous year), and a lifetime limit of $7,200.

ESDC will also pay an additional CESG amount for each qualifying beneficiary. The additional amount is based on net family income and can change over time as net family income changes.

For 2015, the additional CESG rate on the first $500 contributed to an RESP for a beneficiary who is a child under 18 years of age is:

  • 40% (extra 20% on the first $500), if the child’s family has qualifying net income for the year of $44,701 or less; or
  • 30% (extra 10% on the first $500), if the child’s family has qualifying net income for the year that is more than $44,701 but is less than $89,401.

Unused CESG contribution room is carried forward and used when RESP contributions are made in future years provided that the specific contribution requirements for beneficiaries who attain 16 or 17 years of age are met.

Impact on your retirement
Given the increasing cost of post-secondary education it is not surprising that many Canadian parents are also concerned about how their children’s educational costs will affect their own finances, with 43% worrying about the cost and 31% concerned about how paying that expense will affect their other financial commitments. If their financial situation becomes difficult, many parents’ long-term savings and retirement plans may be in jeopardy.

Exactly half of Canadian parents believe funding their children’s schooling is more important than contributing to long-term savings and investments and 43% state that they prioritize their children’s post-secondary educational expenses over saving for retirement. More than half (54%) said they would be willing to go into debt in order to afford university or college expenses.

In addition, survey results reveal that Canadian parents are thinking about these expenses early in their children’s lives as 28% of parents start planning ways to fund these expenses when the child is born; 9% before the child is born; and 24% look at these issues before their child begins primary school.

Even so, half of Canadian parents expect their child to contribute financially toward those educational expenses and 39% say their university-aged children are helping to fund their own education, which is one of the largest proportions of all of the markets surveyed, the study notes.

To estimate your child’s future education costs and see how your planned RESP including contributions and grants will cover those costs, plug some numbers into the GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca RESP Savings Calculator.

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