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Ripple of Change: Our Work in Education Savings through the Aspire Network

Momentum and community partners have worked hard to make post-secondary education more financially accessible to lower-income Calgarians.

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Fri Dec 1, 2023 by Jeff Loomis

Education opens the door to a brighter future for many Canadians, but that door can be heavy for families living on lower incomes. While post-secondary education is a reliable way to increase prosperity, tuition costs make it inaccessible to many. This is why, in addition to offering low-and-no-cost adult learning opportunities through our programming, Momentum and community partners through Aspire have worked hard to make post-secondary education more financially accessible to lower-income Calgarians.

Education savings do more than cover tuition and books – they are also a critical tool for breaking the cycle of poverty. Here’s how:

  • A StatsCan study shows kids with education savings are 50% more likely to go to some form of post-secondary education.
  • More education equals more earning potential down the road. Canadians who complete some level of post-secondary education – including community college or apprenticeship – earn higher incomes over their lifetime than people who do not complete any form of post-secondary education.

The Federal government agrees that post-secondary education is important and has created a special savings account called the Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP). RESP accounts are key tools that increase children’s access to post-secondary education. Why?

  1. The money inside grows tax free.
  2. The government adds grants to help savings grow faster. Two common grants are the Canada Education Savings Grant and the Canada Learning Bond (CLB).

The Canada Learning Bond is particularly noteworthy as it is specially designed for families living on lower incomes. Unlike other grants, the CLB does not require any contribution from the family – the government deposits money directly into the child's RESP.

This is why in Calgary, through the Aspire financial empowerment collaborative, Momentum and community partners decided to prioritize increasing participation in RESPs, especially among families living on lower incomes.

When we began over a decade ago, less than 20% of families living in the Calgary area that were eligible for the Canada Learning Bond had an RESP. To get the word out about this powerful tool, Momentum trained seven Aspire community organizations to promote RESPs and support families in accessing the Canada Learning Bond. By providing workshops and one-on-one support, the agencies broke down the barriers for families living on lower incomes to open an RESP and access the CLB. The efforts paid off, with CLB uptake in Calgary more than doubling by 2020. Now, over 50% of eligible children in Calgary receive the CLB—the second highest uptake of any city in Canada! Aspire also more recently launched LearnSmart, which is a new collaborative program to empower young adults to open their own RESP through Wealthsimple.

Education savings are not just about the money – they’re about changing lives. Together, Momentum and Aspire partners have helped swing open the door for more children in Calgary to achieve their dreams. As these children go on to create sustainable livelihood for themselves and their families, ripples of change will continue to be felt throughout our communities.

This post is part of our Ripples of Change Series. See more stories featuring the impact Momentum has had on our community on our blog.