Although it's not too surprising, it certainly is disappointing to see the new NDP government not taking a moment to provide a second sober thought to the planned closure of the Alberta Centennial Education Savings (ACES) grant.
The grant gives parents who contribute to a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) up to $800 to help fund their education. The deadline for filling out an application form for the ACES grant is July 31st. Sadly, that leaves parents just one month to get an RESP and fill out the appropriate paperwork with their respective RESP providers.
While the previous progressive conservative government didn't seem to think parents cared much about the grant, we wanted to let the new NDP government know they do. So we set out to conduct a survey through the reputable polling firm Leger Marketing to gauge the sentiment of Albertan parents. The results clearly show that government in general, no matter what party, is out of touch with what the average parent of the province wants.
An overwhelming majority of parents (83 per cent) agreed that an $800 grant from the province would go a long way to help save for their child's post-secondary education. These parents (71 per cent) are worried they won't be able to pay for their child's post secondary education and that as a result, will end up with a heavy debt load.
These parents have good reason to worry; Albertans are holding the highest debt levels in the country. The economic down turn caught many off guard. Some have not planned their financial futures in advance. With this uncertainty, families are increasingly concerned they will not have enough money to help fund their child's education. I'm seeing more and more parents who are upset about the government's inaction to help.
In fact, three in four parents told us they would be very upset if the province took away the grant that was promised to families. Another 77 per cent agree with CST and believe the new NDP government should bring back the ACES grant.
"I'm disappointed in the decision to cancel the grant. Investing in the future of our children is investing in the future of our province," said Joseph Suelzle, a father of two. "To cut the grant is short sighted."
The CST survey showed three-quarters of parents feel that it's the responsibility of the province to help pay/save for their child's post secondary education, as an educated workforce will benefit Alberta as a whole.
"When you look ahead to the future and how much more education is going to cost, every little bit helps," said Amy Suelzle. "It's almost scary to think that there's the probability that I can't provide everything for my child, so any contribution and any help we can get is such a blessing. The more that you put into education, the more qualified and educated people you're going to put into society."
Without question, ACES has been a success. The number of children with a RESP has climbed by 122 per cent in just seven years.
For full survey results, details about the ACES grant and information on how to apply for the grant, visit www.cstgetthegrant.ca
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