It’s Time to Start Thinking about the Costs of Postsecondary Education

september-2016-plannerHi everyone! It’s the beginning of the school year! Students in Grade 12 will be thinking about their plans after graduation, and many of those plans will include postsecondary education. So parents, it’s imperative to start thinking about the costs involved in higher education if you haven’t already been planning for it (no RESPs?), or haven’t been able to plan for it! Planning starts NOW!

Step #1: Be aware of the costs of higher education.

recent CIBC survey shows that most parents are not aware of the high costs of tuition.


  • 25% of parents underestimated tuition costs
  • 22% of parents overestimated tuition costs
  • 27% of parents had no idea of tuition costs

In case you’re wondering, the average cost of tuition for Canadian full-time students in undergraduate programs is $6373, according to a 2016 report by Statistics Canada. Tuition fees are highest in Ontario ($8,114) followed by Saskatchewan ($7,177) and Nova Scotia ($7,218), while the cheapest tuition in the country can be found in Newfoundland and Labrador ($2,759), and Quebec ($2,851). Canadian undergraduate students in dentistry ($21,012) continued to pay the highest average tuition fees in 2016/2017. The next highest were fees for medicine ($13,858), law ($11,385) and pharmacy ($9,738).

And what about the cost of college tuition? Here is the average cost of tuition for one academic year in an Ontario college program: Diploma Programs are $2,400 with Bachelor’s Degree Programs costing approximately $6,100. As with university, tuition for specialized programs e.g., heavy equipment operator, aviation, photography or fine arts, may be higher.

As well as tuition, there are other expenses that include food & accommodation (if your child will be living in residence or other accommodation away from home), textbooks, supplies, entertainment, etc. 40% of parents who took the survey have no idea of these non-tuition costs. 

So parents, you have just reached the first step in planning for your child’s postsecondary education: awareness of the cost of higher education.

Step #2: Take action to deal with those costs. 

IDEAS: (Note: the first two points are for those who still have young children.):

  • Save early.
  • Use an RESP.
  • Check out government grants and bursaries.
  • Have your child look for scholarships. This is time-consuming work—you may want to help them with this.
  • Encourage your child to get a part-time job to help with some of the expenses.
  • When your child is in Grade 12, or starting out in postsecondary education, have them create a budget around living expenses.
  • Talk to a financial planner.

Involve your child in financial planning for their education. They need to be aware of the costs involved, and the sacrifices made, in helping them attain a postsecondary education. And they need to take some responsibility for paying for it too — that will be for their benefit as much as yours!