Tuition fees are often top of mind, but the funds you save inside an RESP can be used for much more—they can pay for any education-related cost, from a new tablet to a transit pass.
An RESP is a type of registered savings account that offers tax-deferred growth, partial contribution matching from the government, and additional grants to help families save for a child’s education.
When you tally up tuition, books, technology, room and board, and other expenses, the cost of a post-secondary education can be pricey. According to Statistics Canada, full-time undergraduate tuition fees for the 2022–23 academic year averaged $6,834, and professional degree programs ran as high as $23,963 (for a degree in dentistry)—and that’s just for one year.
It’s hard to predict exactly how much the cost of higher education is going to rise by the time your preschooler hits their post-secondary years, but it’s sure to increase. By some estimates, kids starting college or university in 2030, for example, could be looking at over $55,000 to complete a four-year degree—and that’s if they live at home! (For a personalized projection, check out this helpful calculator tool from Embark.) It’s so important to start saving for school as soon as possible.
The good news is that as long as the cash is for educational purposes, pretty much anything goes, including studying abroad. Here’s a comprehensive list of what your RESP savings can pay for:
- School supplies, including books, laptops and tablets
- Dormitory meal plans
- Transportation to the college, university or school
- Student athletic or activity fees
- Residence fees or rent
- Other related living expenses
- Tuition fees for recognized post-secondary educations, including colleges, universities, technical programs and vocational schools
- Tuition for a variety of specialized training institutes, such as private naturopathy programs, aesthetics schools, the Canada’s National Ballet School and truck driver training centres, for example
- Tuition fees for qualified schools around the world
You can start using funds from an RESP for educational purposes as soon as your child graduates high school and is officially enrolled in a qualifying post-secondary educational program at a college, university or trade school.
There are several ways to access the funds in your RESP. It can be a bit involved, particularly if you’re converting investments into cash, so it’s best to start the process a month or two before the first tuition payment is due.
Withdrawals of the contributions you’ve made are called Post-Secondary Education Payments (PSE) and are returned to the subscriber (that’s you). Withdrawals of investment earnings and government grants are called Educational Assistance Payments (EAP), and they’re paid to the beneficiary (your soon-to-be college, university or trade school student).