Higher Education: Your Children’s Dreams Come True

Coming to live in Canada may seem like a fairy tale, especially when you arrive from a country where the future prospects for you and your family weren’t so great. From street sweeper to millionaire – North America still counts as the land of opportunities, and though you may have to start small, you may see great chances for your children to succeed one day, and experience a level of education and lifestyle you may have never envisioned for yourself.

Although growing up in Canada offers many possibilities and higher education is open to anyone, it isn’t free of charge. If you have a big family, getting your kids through college can be a huge financial burden. Tuition fees vary greatly between universities and provinces, starting at $2000 per year for an undergraduate program in Alberta and reaching up to $26,000 per year for a graduate program in Ontario.

A Diploma, Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, even a Ph.D. is an option for any child growing up in Canada, a country that is known for its first-rate education system. We rank second in educational spending among the G-8 countries and we’re above average amongst OECD countries. Still, it can be expensive for the parents, or the children who may spend a long time paying off their student loans.

You need to start planning early! Life insurance policies, educational funds and most importantly Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) are great ways to do that. For every $100 you save in RESPs, the government will contribute an additional $20 to your savings, up to a yearly maximum of $400.00 per year. Families earning up to an annual income of $35,000 will see this contribution doubled to 40 percent per year – a great way to make headway for your child’s education.

Of course, education doesn’t depend only on money. Before your children can apply to a college or university, they must first get through the public school system in Canada. Defining their own strengths, interests and passions is not an easy process for adolescents, not even – or especially not – in a country with many choices. Moreover, we live in a society that believes in success. So other than saving your cents, what can you do to get your child on the right track towards higher education?

Emphasize the subjects they are good at, and that they love. All of us must learn to count, divide and multiply, but none of us have to become professors of algebra. There are certainly some professions where job prospects and earnings are better than in others. You may even have an idea in mind, about where you would like to see your son or daughter one day. But here’s is another advantage of living in Canada: we encourage free personal development and independent thinking. Don’t close a door on your child’s dream if it’s not the subject you had in mind for them. Rather, encourage them to explore and determine whether this is where they really want to be – through part-time work, internships and volunteering. This will look good on their résumé later on, when they have reached the end of their formal education, and venture into the working world to find the job of their dreams.

Canadian Newcomer Issue 44