Changes to Registered Education Savings Plans for the upcoming school year

Edited by Admin

By anyone’s measure, obtaining a post-secondary education is an expensive undertaking. Tuition and other school-related costs are just the start of the bills which must be paid. Whether the student obtains a place in a university residence or finds a place to live off campus, students (and their parents) must also budget for the cost of residence and meal plan fees, or rent and groceries. The total cost of a single year of university or college attendance away from home can easily reach $30,000 – and can significantly exceed that amount where the student is enrolled in a specialized academic program leading to a professional designation.

Adding to the financial hit, government support for post-secondary education through our tax system has been cut back in recent years. While students can still claim a tax credit for the cost of tuition, two other related tax credits – the education tax credit and the textbook tax credit – were eliminated by both the federal government and several of the provinces in recent years.

While there are still government-sponsored loan and grant programs which post-secondary students can access, the reality is that most families will shoulder the main financial burden of post-secondary education for their children. And many families do so through a Registered Education Savings Plan, or RESP.

An RESP enables parents (or grandparents) to save for a child or grandchild’s post-secondary education on a tax-assisted basis. While parents or grandparents who contribute to an RESP cannot deduct contributions made from income, investment income earned by those contributed funds is not taxed as it is earned. And, where RESP contributions start early, those funds can compound, through untaxed investment earnings, for more than a decade.

The other significant tax benefit of an RESP comes into play when the beneficiary, now a student enrolled in post-secondary education, withdraws funds to pay for his or her education. All such qualifying withdrawals made, whether of original contributions or investment income earned, are taxed in the hands of the student beneficiary. And, because most students have little or no income, it’s often the case that no tax is payable on amounts withdrawn.

A change announced in the 2023-24 federal budget will enhance the available tax savings. The amount which a student can withdraw from an RESP is subject to limits and, as noted in the budget, those limits have not changed in 25 years, clearly not keeping pace with increases in either the cost of living or the cost of post-secondary education.

To address that gap, the amount which a student can withdraw from an RESP has been increased, effective as of the budget date of March 28, 2023. Those changes are as follows:

  • Students who are enrolled full-time (defined as a program lasting at least three weeks and requiring at least 10 hours per week of courses or other program work) can now withdraw up to $8,000 in respect of the first 13 consecutive weeks of enrollment in a 12-month period. (The previous limit was $5,000.)
  • Students who are enrolled part-time (defined as a program lasting at least three consecutive weeks and requiring at least 12 hours per month of courses in the program) can now withdraw up to $4,000 per 13-week period. (The previous limit was $2,500.)

The tax impact of the change can mean that a post-secondary student who lives at home during the summer, is able to find full-time employment at minimum wage during that time, and who withdraws the full $8,000 from his or her RESP, could cover about half the costs to be incurred for the upcoming school year out of income on which no federal tax is payable.

Assume that such a student is paid $15.00 per hour, working 35 hours a week for the 16 weeks between academic years. That work will generate $8,400 in income. The RESP withdrawal of $8,000 will bring the student’s total income for the year to $16,400. For federal tax purposes, every taxpayer can earn up to $13,521 (for 2023) in annual income before any federal tax is payable. The student can, as well, claim a federal tax credit for tuition amounts paid, which will eliminate federal tax on the remaining $2,879 of income.

Despite the best efforts of students and their parents to save for post-secondary education and to offset the costs of that education through summer jobs, the reality is that most post-secondary students do have to borrow money at some point during their post-secondary education years. The lowest-cost source of such borrowing is government student loan programs, and changes which take effect as of the 2023-24 academic year have also been made with respect to such borrowings.

All Canada Student Loan (CSL) borrowings are subject to a weekly limit and where a student borrows funds through the CSL program, no repayment of those borrowings is required until six months after the student graduates. As announced in this year’s federal budget, and effective as of August 1, 2023, the limit on borrowings through the Canada Student Loan program was increased from $210 to $300 per week of study. Finally, effective as of April 1, 2023, all loans received through the CSL program are interest free.

More information on the budgetary changes to the Canada Student Loan program and on changes to the rules governing Registered Education Savings Plans can be found on the federal government website at and at