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Financing Your Education

Degree, diploma, certificate—the post-secondary qualification you earn will pay for itself many times over during your career. But first, you have to figure out how to finance it.

Whether you’re enrolling in a post-secondary program right out of high school or as a mature student, you’re probably wondering how to pay for your education. If you’re like most people, you’ll use a mix of resources to pay for your education. Here are some options for you to consider:

  • Savings. Knowing how much you can contribute to your education—money from jobs, presents or investments—is a good place to start.

  • Part-time work. Working part-time while attending school might allow you to earn enough to cover some living expenses. You’ll need to decide how many hours of work you can manage, while still allowing enough time for your studies.

  • Summer work. Working during the summer months or between school terms often allows you to save money to cover costs for your next term.

  • Family. If you’re lucky, a family member has been putting money for your education into a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP). If you’re 17 years old or younger and don’t have an RESP, encourage your family to check out this option. You could qualify for additional government money through the program. Family members may also be willing to loan or give you some money towards your education. To learn more, visit the Registered education savings plan section on the Government of Canada's website.

  • Scholarships and bursaries. This is money you don’t have to pay back. Scholarships are usually awarded for good grades, athletics, community service or other achievements. Bursaries are awarded based on need. Visit Scholarships and Bursaries at to find out more and to apply. Also, consider asking family and friends about awards that might be available through groups or corporations they’re associated with—you might be surprised by what’s out there.

  • Government student aid. This includes Canada and Alberta student loans and grants. Based on financial need, student aid offers loans that are interest free while you’re in school. When you leave or finish your studies, your Alberta student loans will be interest-free for six months-with no payments required. Interest begins to accumulate on your Canada student loans once your studies are completed.

    You do not have to start repaying your Alberta and Canada student loans until six months after you graduate or leave school. Repayment assistance is also available for students who need help making payments. You can apply for student aid at For additional help, contact the awards officer at the school you plan to attend, call the Student Aid Alberta Contact Centre toll-free in North America at 1-855-606-2096 or visit your nearest Alberta Works Centre.

  • Bank student loans. Your financial institution may provide student loans, frequently at a reduced interest rate, or you may be eligible for a line of credit. This may be an alternative if you don’t qualify for a government student loan. If you don’t have a job or credit history, you might need someone to co-sign for you.

  • Learn and earn. Apprenticeship, co-operative (co-op) education and applied degree programs offered by some post-secondary institutions provide an opportunity to earn money while you learn. For co-op programs, check the Canadian Association for Co-Operative Education Program Directory at For more information about apprenticeship programs, visit the Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training website at, contact your local Alberta Works Centre or call the Alberta Career Information Hotline at 1-800-661-3753 toll-free. Information on applied degree programs is available from post-secondary institutions listed at

  • Lifelong learning plan. If you have a Registered Retirement Savings Plan and are a Canadian resident attending school full-time (some part-time exceptions apply), you may be able to withdraw up to $10,000 per year to finance your education without paying taxes on the withdrawal amount. Visit the Canada Revenue Agency Lifelong Learning Plan at for more details.

  • Employment Insurance. If you are eligible for employment insurance, there are benefits available to cover tuition fees and expenses for some training. For information contact Service Canada at

  • Government and agencies. The Canadian Forces provide financing for some types of education. Visit their recruiting website at or contact a Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre. Aboriginal students may be able to access educational financing through their band or through associations such as the Métis Nation of Alberta.

  • Employers. Some employers are willing to pay for courses related to your work or they may allow you time off to attend classes. Discuss these options with your supervisor.

A post-secondary education is likely to boost your income throughout your life. Knowing the options will help you and your family to make the best choices for financing your education. You’ll be paying for post-secondary school but you’ll be investing in your future.

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