Whether it’s a degree, a diploma or a 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 do it.
Consider these options for paying for your education
- Savings. Knowing how much you can contribute to your education is a good place to start. Your savings may include money from jobs, presents or investments.
- Part-time work. Working part time while attending school might help 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.
- 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. Consider asking family and friends about awards that might be available through groups or corporations they’re associated with.
- 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 are interest free for 6 months, with no payments required. Interest begins to accumulate on your Canada student loans once your studies are completed. Repayment assistance is available for students who need help making payments.
- Bank student lines of credit. Financing your education through a financial institution may be an option if you don’t qualify for a government student loan. Your financial institution may provide student loans or lines of credit, frequently at a reduced interest rate. Or you may be eligible for a regular line of credit. 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, search the Co-op Program Directory on the home page of the Canadian Association for Co-Operative Education website.
- For more information about apprenticeship programs, visit Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training, contact your local Alberta Supports Centre or call the Alberta Supports Contact Centre.
- For information on applied degree programs at post-secondary institutions, see the educational programs on OCCinfo.
- Training funding. If you would like to upgrade your education or get occupational training to get a better job, you may be eligible for financial support.
- Lifelong learning plan. If are a Canadian resident with a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP), you may be able to withdraw up to $10,000 per year to finance your education without paying taxes on the withdrawal amount. To be eligible, you must be attending school full time. although some part-time exceptions apply. Visit the Canada Revenue Agency Lifelong Learning Plan for more details.
- Employment Insurance (EI). If you are eligible for employment insurance, there are benefits to cover tuition fees and some training expenses. For information, contact Service Canada.
- Government and other agencies. The Canadian Forces provide financing for some types of education. Visit their recruiting website or contact a Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre. Indigenous students may be able to access educational financing through their band or through associations such as the Métis Nation of Alberta.
- Employers. Some employers will pay for courses related to your work or allow you time off to attend classes. Discuss these options with your supervisor.
Invest in your post-secondary education, invest in your future
Paying for post-secondary school is an investment in your future.
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.