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Working Wise: Saving for Your Education

Dear Working Wise,

My son is working part time while he completes grade 12, but he’s not saving any money for college. We’ve saved some money for his education, but not enough for four years. How can we encourage him to start saving?
Signed, Anxious Dad

January 27, 2016

Dear Anxious,

Higher education is not getting any cheaper - that’s why it’s important for your son to start thinking about how he’s going to pay for his education.

Fortunately, there are a number of different ways he can help pay for his education, including savings from part-time work.

  1. In addition to Registered Education Savings Plans and gifts from parents, scholarships and bursaries are a great source of educational funding.
    • Many scholarships are awarded on academic achievement while others are awarded for athletic involvement, leadership, community service, area of interest and the school you are attending.
    • Bursaries are awards based primarily on financial need, but may also require additional criteria such as community involvement or proven leadership skills. There are a vast number of different awards. Visit the scholarships and bursaries section on the Student Aid Alberta website for more information. This section also includes a searchable list of awards.
  2. Students can apply for government student loans through Student Aid Alberta which can help cover basic costs of learning and living. The goals of the program are to reduce financial barriers and enable access to post-secondary education. Students can apply online at Student Aid Alberta.

  3. Students can work while they are in post-secondary. Research shows that most students can work 10-15 hours per week without any noticeable impacts to their studies.
    • Working a few hours a week helps post-secondary students learn time management and employability skills. It can also save years of repaying loans for not only tuition and books, but pocket money for movie tickets and pizza.
    • The MyWorkQuest website has answers to a lot of common questions that your son may have about work.
  4. Your son might want to consider an education that allows him to earn while he learns. Apprenticeships and co-op education programs allow students to earn an income for part of the year while they learn on the job. Visit the Tradesecrets website for more information on Alberta’s registered trades.

  5. Finally, working part time while in high school is a fantastic way for students to save for their post-secondary education. But it’s the kind of good idea that’s hard to sell until Frosh Week begins.

Discussing with your son what his education is going to cost, showing him what you can contribute and what he will need to pay through scholarships, loans, working and saving might help him understand why it’s important to start saving now.

Setting goals and coming up with a plan might also make university seem a little more real and get him excited about saving for post-secondary.

The ALIS web site has a whole section devoted to advising high school students on post-secondary costs, ways to pay, and how to manage their money.

Photo Credit: © iStockphoto/andresimaging

Working Wise is a syndicated newspaper column prepared by the Government of Alberta to answer work-related questions from Albertans. Do you have a work-related question? You can send it to Charles Strachey (charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca), a manager with Alberta Community and Social Services.

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