The recent Ways to Pay for School Webinar was, to put it simply, a smash hit. It quashed much of the uncertainty surrounding the financial planning options of students returning to school this fall, and it did so without boring anyone to death. The panelists neatly summarized important topics and gave succinct answers to participant questions to keep the webinar moving at an engaging pace. The webinar covered just about everything, from changes in government funding to where to find scholarships and how to win them. In this post, we are going to summarize the contents of the webinar and recap the answers that our panelists gave to some of the most pertinent questions.
Budgeting & Financial Planning
One of the first, and most important, points discussed in the webinar was budgeting and financial planning. It is absolutely essential that students and their principal financial supporters have an honest understanding of the funds that will be needed to get a student through university, or at least through the first year. While a lot of people get stuck on tuition and living, there are a host of other expenses, like school-mandated fees for student clubs, textbooks, and other miscellaneous spending. During the webinar, participants were shown a budgeting worksheet created by HigherEdPoints (you can download that for free here!) that makes it easy to see all of the potential expenses that a student can incur, and allows the student to add up all of the sources of funding that they currently have available to them. That way students can ballpark how much money they need, and start thinking about where their funds will come from. Be sure to look up other online budgeting templates that can help you get started as well!
Registered Education Savings Plan
Another important discussion was about the Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP). The RESP is one of the ways that the Canadian government supports students in post-secondary education. As a student, you can have financial supporters that contribute money to the RESP on your behalf. Then, as the money contributed to the plan produces earnings (through interest and other types of investment), the government will match a portion of your contribution (about 20% of the money you contribute) up to a certain limit. The government grants paid into RESPs are called ‘educational assistance payments.’ There are also some special rules about how much money you can take out of an RESP and when. Learn more about RESPs here. The main point is, if you don’t have an RESP, you should look into starting one! If you do, make sure you know the rules about getting your money out to help pay your fees.
Financial Aid Offices and Scholarships
Did you know that almost every post-secondary institution in Canada has a financial aid office? “So, like, a group of people solely dedicated to helping students finance their education?” Yes! Those offices are the HQ for all things student finance: scholarships, bursaries, government grants, loans, work-study, and the list goes on. It’s really important that every student knows where this office is on their campus so that they can find it easily when they need help.
Our panelists also noted that one of the biggest mistakes that a post-secondary student can make is to neglect to apply for scholarships. Oftentimes students will preclude themselves from consideration because they don’t think themselves qualified. However, the only way you’ll really know whether you’re qualified is if you apply! Don’t let your own ideas about who should win the money hinder you! Even if you don’t win, applying for scholarships is a great way to learn how to sell yourself which is incredibly using for things like job searching and interviews.
What tips do you have for students with disabilities?
- The Canadian government offers a Canada Student Grant for Students with Permanent Disabilities that can give a student up to $2,000 in additional funding each school year.
- Students with disabilities may also be more qualified for bursaries of (both public and private), given the increased costs associated with education for these individuals. Students should make sure that they capitalize on bursary opportunities.
- Connecting with the financial aid office at the student’s school is the best bet for finding out all of the options.
The income of my financial supporters will be lower in 2020 than in the past, how will that change the amount of government aid available to me?
- Typically, the size of the loan and bursary afforded to you by the government is proportional to the income in the previous years of the student’s parents or legal guardians (under the assumption that it will continue in the near future).
- However, there is an additional form within the OSAP application that can be filled out by the student which helps the government take into account a sudden reduction in the financial capacities of the supporters from one year to the next.
- Similar forms should exist in the financial support applications for all provinces and territories.
Will school be cheaper this fall because it is online?
- Unfortunately, changing the formats of entire programs from in-person to mostly online costs universities and colleges a lot of money. Change is not cheap.
- Furthermore, the schools will be facing lost revenues as a result of decreased enrollment due to border closures and public health restrictions.
- These additional costs combined prohibit schools from reducing fees this upcoming year.
HigherEdPoints and the Globe and Mail did a fantastic job of hosting this conference for financial planning online. Many of the original conference elements were maintained and participants came away with the financial knowledge to tackle post-secondary. However, HigherEdPoints is still looking to host an in-person conference to give students across Canada an even better experience either this September or in 2021, so be on the lookout for that. Even if you made the webinar, it never hurts to get a refresher on the things that really matter!