Vancouver Island University (VIU) has partnered with five school districts across the Island to ensure families are aware of provincial grant opportunities.
Every year, students miss out on millions of dollars in education savings grants from the province because families do not sign up to receive them, according to VIU.
The BC Training & Education Savings Grant is a $1,200 one-time grant available to children between the ages of 6-9. If it is not claimed by the time each child turns nine, the grant is no longer available.
“From Duncan to Campbell River, only about 42 per cent of families have signed up to receive this free money, which means last year, about $3.4 million was left unclaimed because children aged out and can no longer receive it,” said William Litchfield, associate vice-president of the Office of Community Partnerships.
“We know that having as little as $500 in the bank dedicated to post-secondary changes conversations around the dinner table and greatly increases the chances that those children will go to university one day.”
Educational materials are going to students and their families this month in five school districts: 68 (Nanaimo-Ladysmith), 69 (Parksville-Qualicum), 70 (Pacific Rim/Port Alberni), 72 (Campbell River) and 79 (Cowichan).
The materials will be shared with every family with kids aged 5-8 and will encourage families to open a no-fee, no contribution required Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) so they can access education savings grants, according to VIU.
The campaign was launched after Litchfield read an article in The Tyee that revealed a disparity in the income levels of families accessing the grant and families in higher income regions were much more likely to receive the grant.
“We see this as an opportunity for improvement in the regions VIU serves,” Litchfield said. “Nearly 80 per cent of the jobs of the future will require some form of post-secondary training. We need to ensure children in our region are taking advantage of every opportunity that will help them attend.”
School districts are sending out the information in a variety of ways to families and sharing information on social media to boost awareness. The materials will also promote the Canada Learning Bond, a contribution by the federal government into the RESP of a child born after 2004 whose family is considered low-income.
Even one year of previous eligibility for the grant will allow a child to take advantage of it. Currently, there is about $44 million in unclaimed Canada Learning Bond grants in the region, according to VIU.
“We want to show families how easy it can be to access this money,” said Blake Landry, VIU’s Canada Learning Bond Coordinator. “For an hour’s work or less, you can have at least $1,200 saved for your child’s future. And if you need help, we are here to support you.”