United Way Fraser Valley (UWFV) has partnered with SmartSAVER and the Abbotsford school district to encourage parents to apply for free education funds for their children.
UWFV executive directory Wayne Green said parents may be unaware that the federal government provides $500 to low-income families to start a Registered Education Savings Program (RESP) for each child.
Each following year, for a maximum of 15 years, the child’s RESP will be credited with another $100. This education grant is currently based on a family’s income threshold of $44,701.
Federal contributions are retroactive for all eligible years. While voluntary contributions by the family are encouraged, they are not required.
Green said RESPs are not limited to fund attendance at university or college. RESPs can be used for building trades apprenticeships, hairdressing school or any approved post-secondary course.
Also, for children six to nine years old, the provincial government will contribute $1,200 to every child’s RESP.
In order to receive these funds, the child must have a social insurance number and have an RESP. Parents are being urged to apply immediately, even if their child is as old as 13.
“At United Way, we think this is a fantastic poverty reduction plan,” Green said. “It will encourage young people to further their education, hopefully securing better paid employment.”
Currently, only 41 per cent of eligible parents in Abbotsford have applied for these funds.
Green said if that number were doubled, between $7.2 million and $13.5 million would be added to Abbotsford children’s RESPs.
Parents can sign up online at startmyRESP.ca/uwfv or go to their regular financial institution.
Green recommends that parents confirm that there is no set-up fee, no annual fee and no compulsory contributions required.
School district superintendent Kevin Godden said the program is a “tremendous advantage” for students.
“Saving for post-secondary, even when children are in elementary school, will provide families with better options once their children graduate,” he said.
As a further incentive, SmartSAVER will hold a weekly draw for $1,000 for those signing up online during November and December.