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Pandemic, School and Finances: Getting a Clearer Picture

November 17, 2020

This year, with everything that’s been going on, we were all hoping back to school would mark a return to normal—but it wasn’t the case at all!

A new school year comes with various expenses, and many parents take this time to go over their finances. With the possibility of going back to online classes, what does this mean for the family budget? Let’s take a closer look.

School = Free

It’s important to know that in Quebec, the education system is based on free access to school, as underlined in the Education Act. So, school is free! But the cost of the supplies used to write, cut or draw must be covered by the student, i.e., the parents.

In that case, if the student uses apps to learn how to read and write, do the parents have to pay for these? No. The Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur ruled that schools must provide this type of equipment. In fact, nearly 200,000 devices will be provided to schools by the Government of Quebec. Thankfully, the Quebec education system gives, to a certain extent, access to fair treatment, so all families, regardless of their background, can get the computer devices necessary to their children’s education for free.

I hope there won’t be steep fees for replacing equipment in case of a mishap. I don’t know about you, but I’m always a little worried when lending my tablet to my daughters: kids will be kids!

Additional Related Expenses

Less paper, less photocopying, and a tablet for free: sounds like a reduction of expenses for parents, but it’s not that simple.

The thing is some families aren’t equipped well enough for distance learning. Having a good Internet connection might seem standard, but it’s still not the case for all households, especially in rural areas. There’s also the need for new furniture, printing materials, word processing and protection software, etc.

Unfortunately, unless it will be announced in the next budget, these additional related expenses are not considered deductible. But many indirect measures were implemented at the beginning of the year with the aim to increase the liquidity of taxpayers (deferred student loan repayments, deferred tax payments, suspension of overpayment recovery plans, etc.). However, these measures haven’t been renewed and ended in early fall despite the prospect of the second wave.

Financial Measures for Families: Are You Missing Out?

As a reminder, several government measures aim to reduce the financial burden of education on families. Do you know them?

  • In Quebec, there’s the supplement for the purchase of school supplies, which is paid yearly to every child aged 4 to 16 years. For the year 2020, this supplement amounts to $104.
  • Both the Canadian and Quebec governments offer tax credits (15% for the federal government and 8% for the Quebec government) for tuition fees paid to a post-secondary educational institution. These credits can be carried forward and transferred to the parents. Certain strategies can be used to optimize these credits which are often underestimated! Talk to a professional about it.
  • The generous government grants paid into a registered education savings plan (RESP) boost the contributions made to save for a child’s post-secondary education. These grants can match up to 60% of the amount invested. Certain conditions apply, but there are several interesting strategies you can use to get the most out of grants! Once again, don’t hesitate to talk to a professional who can advise you.

Lastly, if your child is enrolled in a private school and you spent money on extracurricular activities, school transportation and related fees (sports, cultural activities, daycare, etc.), you should be entitled to a refund for unused services. You should also know that some private establishments can relax their payment terms in this time of pandemic.

What’s Next?

As a mom, I have—like most parents—even more questions that remain unanswered. In practice, how will this crisis affect my family’s school expenses? If only I had a crystal ball, but unfortunately, I can’t predict the impact of the pandemic on these expenses.

It’s clear that the education system is currently going through major upheavals and that families—yours and mine—are the first to feel the effects.