The Business of University Fees

For those of us who have kids about to return to University we are about to see the onslaught of fees that are charged by all Universities (in Canada). There are many fees being charged, but the two that caught my eye (on my daughter’s tuition bill from Queen’s University) were:

Grad Health Insurance 2016 Fall 2016/09/30 $280.00
Grad Dental Insurance 2016 Fall 2016/09/30 $220.00

For those who do not want to do the arithmetic, that is $500 for 4 months.

The Noble and Under-appreciated Stubby

Don’t see any beer taxes on the tuition bill (luckily)

Remember that if your child is in school your health insurance plan covers both Health & Dental (if you are covered that is), so you really don’t need to pay this fee, and most universities will allow your child to opt out of the charges (which seem quite high to me). I have checked with our friends at LSM Insurance who think the fees are a little high, but not too bad. Another factor to take into consideration is that a lot of Health Plans have positive enrollment clauses (I am with SUN Life for health insurance and that is the case), where you must every year (after a child turns 19 I think) go to the Insurers web site (or send in a form) stating that your child is still at school, or the child loses their coverage under the plan.

How easy is it to opt-out of the health and dental fees at University ? At most schools, not as simple as you might think, and deciphering which fees are optional, and which are mandatory is a real quagmire of data.

I remember folks opting out of fees when I was at University, but typically those were the folks that were paying their own way, and didn’t want to pay for things they weren’t going to use.

What are some other fees from Queens University ? These add up to almost 25% of the tuition bill we are paying (note that residence or living expenses are not here either). Still think you won’t need an RESP to help your kids go to University? I’d also like to remind those with younger kids that there is no legislation limiting the fee levels (tuition yes) or how much they can increase.

Charge Amount
Student Assistance Levy $40.15
Education Society Fee $10.00
Athletics $168.41
Student Wellness Services $58.93
Campus Observation $0.50
Work Bursary Program $5.38
Student Life Centre $21.50
SGPS Society Fee $45.72
Telephone Aid LIne Kingston $0.75
Legal Aid $5.00
Sexual Assault Crisis Centre $1.25
Canadian Federation of Student $16.24
SGPS Student Advisors $3.81
SGPS Accessibility $3.00
The Queen’s Journal $3.50
CFRC $7.50
Walkhome $19.86
Oxfam $0.87
Bus-It $66.25
Qns Internl Affairs Associatio $1.00
SGPS Sports Fund $2.00
Queen’s Food Centre $1.25
HIV Aids Regional Srvcs. $1.00
Union Gallery $3.00
Queen’s Daycare $1.00
Four Directions Aborig Stdnt C $1.00
Dawn House Women’s Shltr $1.07
Q Intern Stdnt Soc Bursary Pgm $0.71
Student Refugee Support $3.37
Reelout Art Project $1.80
Positive Space Program $0.34
Kingston Youth Shelter Project $1.00
Yellow Bike Action Group $0.60
Ban Righ Foundation $3.00
The Grad Club $20.00
Centre for Teaching & Learning $1.35
Sexual Health Resource Centre $0.92
SGPS Sustainability $1.50
Levana Gender Advocacy Centre $0.81
Kgston Loving Spoonful Charity $2.00
Grad Health Insurance $280.00
Grad Dental Insurance $220.00

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My Four Best Investments

Over my financial career I have made many mistakes investing, however there are a few very good investments that I can point to as successes.

My first investment (but not my best) is buying into the Federal Public Service Pension Plan. Thanks to blind luck, I was able to do this, and while it is my biggest investment (yes, even more than my house), it is not the investment that I am most proud. As I outlined in a previous post, thanks to some excellent timing (read luck) on my part I was able to transfer my Nortel Pension into the Federal Public Service Pension plan, and that will (hopefully) allow me to actually retire.

Trent University

Trent University

My 3 other investments (of which I am equally proud) are:

  • A Bachelor of Arts Degree from Wilfrid Laurier University
  • A Bachelor of Kinesiology Degree from Acadia University
  • An Honours Bachelor of Science Degree from Trent University (and hopefully a teaching diploma from Queens University)

As you can tell from the list these are the three degrees that, thanks to some help from my RESPs ,that I helped my daughters’ receive. My youngest daughter has just graduated from Trent University, and as I mentioned in the post I did for me eldest daughter’s degree So That is What $50,000 looks like, it was another excellent investment. Whether my son goes to post-secondary education, we shall see (we are hopeful), but so far aside from being able to retire, I feel I have gone 3 for 3 on these investments.

This is not to say, that if you have decided not to help your children with their post-secondary education you are a bad parent (far from it, many folks just cannot afford to help their kids), just that I have made some awful investments in my time, luckily I have made a few good ones as well.

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Automatic Withdrawal Audits

After attending my youngest daughter’s graduation, I decided to check on my son’s RESP to see just how much money we have so far for his post-secondary education, and thanks to that, I found out that my “Automatic Deposit” (set up many years ago), mysteriously stopped depositing November of 2015.

RESP Piggy Bank

RESP

I called my friendly TD Mutual Fund rep (yes, the RESP is still with TD Mutual Funds, even after I have ranted about them all along, feel free to comment “Do as you say!”), and they don’t know why this happened as well, just that the automatic deposits stopped on November 19th. There has been a problem ticket opened on this issue, and someone will be getting back to me about this.

This really does underline why it is important to check (periodically) on your saving mechanisms, to make sure they are still working as planned.

Moral of the Story: You should always check your automatic withdrawals are still working as you have planned. You should also be checking this for automatic bill payment systems (although your creditors might tell you quickly if you are not paying them as expected).

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Proliteracy.ca – Like Cheese on Vegetables

Let me preface this, that this is a Guest Post from a group of chaps I tripped over a while ago. Sounds like an interesting idea to me teaching folks about the costs of University, they are looking for feedback, have a read and see what you think.

Feels like cheese

by Alfred Yang

For those of you who lived through the 90’s, remember that old Cheese Whiz commercial where kids are reluctant to eat their vegetables until they’re garnished the amazing product? Well, that commercial kept replaying in my head as I worked on Proliteracy.ca, a free tool that helps Canadians plan finances for post-secondary education.

I can’t help but get the feeling that personal finance education is a lot like vegetables.  We all know it’s good for you, but it isn’t that appealing, especially to young people.  I feel like our team at Proliteracy.ca is trying to create the secret sauce that makes something dry and boring more consumable.

Fortunately, from the start of our journey we’ve met many organizations and individuals who share the same passion for promoting financial literacy.  Subject matter experts in the field of personal finance, like Big Cajun Man, gave us the motivation to continue our work.   Today, Proliteracy.ca is available to all Canadians looking to understand post-secondary financing.

The secret sauce?

Despite the rapid evolution of financial technology, it has yet to change the way most consumers educate themselves about personal finance.  The internet gives us incredible access to information, but it can be overwhelming.  The Proliteracy.ca team wanted to find a way to help people filter through the noise to focus on what’s really important to their own situations.

Our team wanted to start by helping students and young parents, a demographic that is arguably the least motivated to learn about personal finance.  Ironically, most members in this very same demographic have a major financial hurdle to overcome – financing post-secondary education.  Tuition has been increasing steadily in the past two decades and according to the Canadian Federation of Students the average new grad from university owes over $28,000 in student debt.

Through extensive research, we found plenty of information on financing post-secondary education, but when considering our own personal situations, a number of questions still remain unanswered:

  • If I have a young child today, how much should I be saving towards?
  • How does studying in a different school or different city impact my cost?
  • How much money should I set aside each month so that I am not too late by the time my child is ready for college?
  • Beside savings, what other financing options are available?
  • How does borrowing impact my child’s financial future?

Proliteracy.ca aims to help forecast the cost of education based on each student’s personal situation. We do the heavy lifting to organize data that’s freely available so that it’s more accessible and easier to understand.

First, we prompt you to answer a few questions, including programs and schools of interest, and the year of enrollment. Then we forecast the cost of tuition, books, and other expenses based on historical data. The end result is a good estimate of the financial target you or your family should be aiming for when planning for post-secondary education.

With an understanding of cost, we’re able to suggest a variety funding options starting with the least expensive options: savings, grants and scholarships.  We build awareness to great federal programs like the Canadian Learning Bond (CLB) and Canadian Education Savings Grants (CESG) and highlight the impact they have on RESP savings.  We also perform grants and scholarships matching, allowing families to take advantage of resources that are otherwise unknown to them before taking on debt.

Eat your vegetables, they’re good for you

In October, we ran a pilot program at three different high schools in the Greater Toronto Area.   We found that students and many young parents are generally not motivated to learn about personal finance and most are not prepared for the high cost of post-secondary education.  Tuition is increasing well beyond the rate of inflation, and a child’s college or university education a decade from now could easily set a family back by over six figures.  Most individuals we spoke to admit that they are planning finances for post-secondary education too late.

Like eating vegetables, financial planning needs to start early in life.  When confronted with a significant financial hurdle like cost of post-secondary education, families need to get into the rhythm of saving, learning about funding options and understanding the implications of debt.

We need your help

Since our pilot launch, we’ve received a lot of encouragement and feedback on how we can improve. While our team is making great strides towards creating an amazing planning tool, we can get there a lot faster by working with individuals and organizations who share the same passion for financial literacy.

So, if you have any feedback at all, we’d love to hear from you.

www.proliteracy.ca

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Mutual Fund Order Rejected (again)

My friends at TD Mutual Funds ended my year with a bang, by cancelling a Mutual Fund order that I had put in for my son’s RESP Account. You remember the last time I tried to do this, I ran into issues that my Trading Profile was not up to date, and thus my order was cancelled, well, it happened again, thanks to my Trading Profile (or Risk Profile).

I was following my own end of year advice, trying to put money into my son’s RESP account, and decided it would be prudent to do this on-line, and attempted to by some TD E-series Funds for the account. I put in my orders and in less than an hour an e-mail arrived outlining why my order was refused, my Trading Profile (or Risk Profile was not up to date. The cry of anguish from me could be heard in Orleans.

Transacation Cancelled

Transaction DENIED!!

One of my new goals for this year, is to fight through the red tape, that is set up to stop me from getting what I want, so I dutifully called the number supplied (in the rejection e-mail), and after a bunch of “security questions”, the young man on the phone told me he could help me “update my investing profile”, which allegedly had not been updated since 2007. I could have asked what I was doing last year when “updated my profile” for another account, but I did not.

I then spent 10 minutes answering questions about my investing beliefs and ideas, of which, two of the questions were specific to this investment account (an RESP). Those  two questions were only specific in that it was, “When do you need this money” question, but I suppose they are savings vehicle specific (in an obtuse way).

Was that all that needed to be done? No! My wife also had to go through the exact same interrogation, as the account is jointly held by her and I (for my son). She then had to answer 10 minutes of the exact same questions. After about 1/2 an hour, I was informed that I was allowed to resubmit my mutual fund purchase (yes, I had to resubmit the purchase, they could not simply reuse the rejected request).

What have I learned from this:

  1. I should follow my own advice, and move this account somewhere else, as I refuse to go through this inquisition again.
  2. TD needs to revamp their Mutual Fund Investing profiles to cover all Mutual Fund accounts held by someone instead of forcing folks to keep more than 5 investing profiles up to date (yes, evidently I have 5 investing profiles). Given the questionnaire has 12 questions and only 2 have to do with the specific investment that is the least that can be expected here.
  3. I should re-read my old posts and remind myself how painful these process can be.

A wonderful way to end 2015. For those of you hoping I write less whining and ranting articles this year, sorry, doesn’t look like that will happen.

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