Costs to go to University or College in Canada

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Tuition, Room and Board fees – Create an Education Plan

A post-secondary education is an investment in the future, but it comes with significant upfront costs.

Many students have to rely on multiple streams to fund their education – parental savings, part-time jobs, student loans, and scholarships and bursaries.

Average university tuition in Ontario was $6,463 in 2019-2020, while college diplomas cost about $2,400 a year.

Factoring in room and board, food, transportation and books and supplies, the price tag for four years of postsecondary can easily reach $80,000 or more.

Here are some ways to pay those bills.

Government help

Federal or provincial student loans come with a six-month interest-free period after graduation.

Depending on need, some students will qualify for grants that don’t have to be repaid. As part of its pandemic response, the federal government has broadened financial aid eligibility and doubled maximum grants.

Apply for government financial aid at least four months before you plan on starting school because it is a long approval process.

Private student loans

In cases where students are deemed ineligible for government student loans but still need financial assistance to cover the costs of education, private financing options can fill the gap.

In most circumstances, private loans come with higher interest rates than those offered by governments that’s not always the case. Almost all Canadian banks offer a line of credit specifically for students.

Scholarships and bursaries

Most universities and colleges offer scholarships based on academic merit, extracurricular activities, volunteer service, or other distinctions, along with bursaries based on those factors combined with financial need.

Many employers offer scholarships for education, as do community and service organizations.

Scholarships Canada highlights nearly 100,000 scholarships worth $200 million every year. Many of them go unclaimed because no one applies.

The majority are not tied to marks or financial need, rather they are targeted to specific fields of study, interests, volunteer experience, and location of study.

Some of these awards require only filling out an online form, while others must come with a portfolio and references. It requires work and persistence, but that can pay off handsomely.

Parental savings: The Registered Education Savings Plan

RESPs are an effective way to save for a post-secondary education, allowing for monthly or weekly automatic deposits, and for the addition of gifts from extended family and friends.

Contributions to an RESP are topped up by way of a Canada Education Savings Grant from the government, which will equal 20 per cent of the amount you contribute to a maximum of $500 for each year ($7,200 in a lifetime for each student). Setting $2,500 a year for a student from birth to age 18 maximizes the government top-up.

Part-time jobs

Earning a steady income while studying lowers the burden of student debt. There are a range of on-campus jobs available at every post-secondary institution that will be more understanding of a student’s workload and schedule than off-campus jobs.

Consider tutoring if you have specialized expertise or excel in a certain subject, or take a job delivering food or driving for a ride-share service. The benefits are that these gig economy jobs can be tailored to class obligations.

In upper years, paid co-ops may be available that will provide invaluable experience. Start looking for those opportunities in first year.