SmartSAVER, a program offered by the Omega Foundation, seeks to strengthen the ability of lower-income Canadian families to save for their children’s post-secondary education using Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) and the Canadian Learning Bond (CLB).
Across Canada, a drastic disparity in post-secondary enrolment between children of the top income bracket and the lowest income bracket exists, 79% to 47% respectively. SmartSAVER partners with a network of champions to make it easier for low-income families to access the CLB: government money available for education after high school. LEAP and SmartSAVER embarked on their partnership in 2016 with a strategy to increase the sign-up rate of the CLB across Canada from 32% to 40% in five years. In 2018, LEAP, the City of Toronto, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and many local community agencies partnered together to focus on the Jane and Finch community in Toronto, kickstarting an estimated $1 million in education savings for 600 eligible children through SmartSAVER’s StartMyRESP online application. The event now serves as a model to the CLB Champions Network to replicate best practices across Canada. Since the time of our partnership launch, the number of children accessing the CLB has grown from approximately 900,000 recipients to more than 1.3 million children.
As a single mother juggling the immediate financial needs of her three young children, Jess had always believed that putting money aside for their future education was beyond her reach. “I knew about RESPs, but I never thought I would be able to start one unless I had money to invest. What I learned from SmartSAVER gave me tremendous comfort; I can access funds for my kids’ education and I no longer feel overwhelmed when I think about their future.”
All children, regardless of income have a right to an education. Working with LEAP to highlight this issue and bring attention to our work has been a remarkable experience.
– Luke Connell Executive Director, Omega Foundation