British Columbia

Many parents passing up $1,200 B.C. education grant

Since Aug. 2015, the province has offered a $1,200 grant for parents with RESPs for kids born in 2006 or later, but many parents aren't saving for their children's post-secondary education and haven't applied for the grant.

The province offers a $1,200 grant for parents with RESPs for kids born in 2006 or later

Jada Francis, 8, plays with a spiral wheel after an event Wednesday held by the B.C. minister of education and the Canadian Scholarship Trust Foundation to promote post-secondary education savings. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Jada Francis, 8, has big plans for a career in law.

"When I grow up, I want to be a judge," she said on Wednesday.

Francis seems to have a sense that getting enough education to become a lawyer then judge isn't going to be cheap.

"Well I don't know, but it's a lot of money," she said, adding that she thinks her parents are going to be able to handle the cost.

Her father, James Francis, who considers his family upper middle class, is already bracing for the expensive education.

"You know what? It's a daunting task, but my wife and I — we have three kids — and we're ready for it," he said. "You know, we are working tirelessly to invest in their education and the B.C. Government is helping us out with this new B.C. training grant — this $1,200 training grant — and we're also using the federal grants."

The Francis family was held up as a fine example to others at an event held by the minister of education and the Canadian Scholarship Trust Foundation (CST) on Wednesday.

"Today is really about a reminder that every parent can look for opportunities and get, basically, money from government to kick start savings for post-secondary for their children," said education minister Mike Bernier.

Parents ignoring grant

According to Bernier and CST vice president Peter Lewis, many parents are leaving that $1,200 grant on the table by failing to start a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) and put money aside for their kids' post-secondary education.

"I'm very familiar with the realities of dealing with the juggling of priorities when you're raising kids, as well as the reality of dealing with the pain of paying for post-secondary education," said Lewis, who has seven children of his own. "It's an expensive proposition, and if you haven't planned for it, then you're going to be faced with a significant challenge."

"In British Columbia, there's roughly half of parents opening RESPs," he said. "That means half of families don't have that type of education savings plan, are not taking advantage of the grants that are available to them. And we think that should change."

Lewis points out that the $1,200 grant is a one-time thing for parents with a child born in, or after 2006, but when it's invested in an RESP, it will grow over the years along with savings added by the parents.

The new awareness campaign about post-secondary savings and grants isn't intended for people like James Francis — he's already on the right track.

"I'm waiting for them to actually put the money into the account. Apparently, it's going to be coming this month," he said.

"We're going to do our part. I mean, I figure if the government is willing to invest in our children, then why shouldn't we invest in our children, right?"