07/03/2013 11:39 EDT | Updated 09/02/2013 05:12 EDT

$1,200 grant offered to parents starting education savings

Summer vacation has just begun, but British Columbia's new education minister is urging parents of small children to start saving for post-secondary education now.

On Wednesday, Peter Fassbender re-announced the plan for a B.C. Training and Education Savings Grant, a one-time offer of $1,200 to go into new RESP accounts for children who were born in 2007 or later.

"What we're trying to do is to help people to understand that when they invest in their child's future, the time to start is when they're very young," he said.

Critics of the grant say it will do little to improve access to college and university, and even with interest it will hardly make a dent in overall tuition fees.

If the grant was put into a registered education savings plan with a six per cent rate of return when a child is six, it would grow into $2,415 by the time the student enters post-secondary education at 18.

With a slightly higher rate of return at eight per cent, the grant itself could grow instead to $3,022.

Fassbender said the intent of the grant is mainly to get parents to start thinking about saving money earlier.

"It really helps them develop that discipline. It also gives them an opportunity for grandparents to support them and contribute to it," he said.

Parents who want to take advantage of the $1,200 grant need to apply for a social insurance number for their child, and they must register the RESP plan before the child turns seven.