Trends in Tuitions, Other Costs Make Case for Starting RESPs

It’s not just rising tuition costs that can put the university aspirations of young Canadians at risk, compulsory fees – for which students are responsible regardless of their field of study – are escalating, as well.

Small wonder, then, that many of today’s young parents are investigating the ins and outs of Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs), according to CST Consultants Inc., one of Canada’s leading distributors and managers of RESPs.

By starting to save in a RESP sooner rather than later – and taking full advantage of the government’s Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG) – families will be able to offset some of the financial pressures associated with post-secondary education.

CST Consultants says parents are smart to set up the savings plan now, when there’s time for their contributions and the earnings to accrue.

In Statistics Canada’s annual survey of university tuition fees, undergraduate tuitions for full-time students averaged $6,838 in 2018/2019, up 3.3% from the previous academic year. Graduate programs reached $7,086, a 2.4% from the previous academic year.

Canadian students who find their funds falling short are also likely to experience sticker shock at other costs they might not have anticipated and that are rising in line with tuitions. Compulsory fees figure into that category, which cover everything from student associations to athletics to health services, though they vary by school.

Compulsory fees represent additional out-of-pocket expenses that students are required to

cover. For undergrads, they averaged $921 in 2018/2019, up 4.2% from the previous year. Compulsory fees increased 3.6% to $875 for graduate students.

In addition to tuition and compulsory fees, CST Consultants suggests that parents might also consider prospective fields of study that their children might pursue (based on family professions and interests), so they are more aware of tuition ranges they should be planning for.

For example, Statistics Canada noted dentistry currently has the most costly average tuition fees ($23,474) for undergraduates, but if it’s any comfort, only 3.6% of undergraduates were enrolled in dentistry and three other programs – medicine ($14,780), law ($13,332) and pharmacy ($10,746). Humanities studies, though, commanded the lowest tuition fees, though they vary across the provinces.

Given current trends, what will the tuition costs reach by the time today’s children are ready to take their next steps into post-secondary education? CST Consultants did some number crunching and said they could reach as high as $146,000 by 2036 for a four year university degree for a student living away from home, inclusive of tuition, compulsory fees, room and board, transportation and books.

There’s no disputing the value of a post-secondary education. Its value has continued to increase over time. What we as a society must ensure, given these trends, is that everyone, regardless of their background or circumstances, has access to the financial resources necessary to secure that level of education. It’s why RESPs have never been more important.





  1. Good information.

  2. We opened an RESP for our child as soon as he was born. I’m so glad we did after reading the statistics here and realizing how much school is going to cost us.

  3. Chris Dawson says

    Good information here – costs accumulate pretty quickly and like the article points out – it is sticker shock.

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