The CST Foundation partnered with S. Ashleigh Weeden, PhD to investigate the challenges and opportunities in rural uptake of the Canada Learning Bond Program. 

TORONTO, ON - April 9, 2024 - The CST Foundation (CST) today released new research that aims to better understand the challenges and opportunities in rural uptake of the Federal Canada Learning Bond (CLB) program. Created in 2004, the CLB was designed to kick-start education savings for young Canadians from low-income households; to receive the CLB the eligible children must open a Registered Education Savings Plan (“RESP”).  While the gap in take-up of the CLB between rural and urban Canadians has grown since 2004, the reasons for this gap have never been explored.  CST partnered with researcher S. Ashleigh Weeden, PhD, to survey rural Canadians to better understand the unique challenges they face in saving for post-secondary education.

The survey was open to adult parents and guardians that self-identified as low-income and living rurally. Some key findings from the survey include:

  • Rurality matters:  policies and programs such as the CLB do not meaningfully account for the lived experience and realities of rural living. The lack of local post-secondary education opportunities, limited financial services infrastructure, and less access to information on programs such as the CLB make it harder for families to financially prepare to support their children’s post-secondary education.
  • Administrative burdens become a barrier. The challenges of living rurally were mostly reported as being lack of services and amenities, lack of infrastructure, and lack of access to critical services. These challenges accessing services in rural regions can turn administrative burdens – such as getting a Social Insurance Number for their child – into a barrier impacting rural families access to programs like the CLB. 
  • CLB awareness remains an issue. More than 50 per cent of survey respondents had heard of the CLB but had not applied for the program, while 37 per cent knew about the program and had applied. The most common source of information about the CLB was a friend, family member or community organization, suggesting there remains opportunities to better leverage community-level service providers and networks.


“This research underscores CST’s continued commitment to enabling access to post-secondary education for Canadians regardless of where they live,” said Peter Lewis, President and CEO, CST Foundation. “As the pioneers of education savings in Canada, we are committed to being part of the solution to help close the gap in CLB take-up among rural families.”

“Governments across Canada, at all levels, continue to struggle to develop and implement effective rural policies and programming,” said Dr. Weeden. “This investigation into the persistent and growing gap in rural uptake of the Canada Learning Bond reinforces the critical importance of tailoring public policy and investments in a way that respects and reflects the place-based realities of different communities across the country so that a person’s postal code does not determine their quality of life.”


About the Canadian Scholarship Trust Foundation

Founded in 1960, the Canadian Scholarship Trust Foundation is dedicated to helping Canadian families access post-secondary education. Through philanthropy, discovery, advocacy and by sponsoring the Canadian Scholarship Trust Plans to help families save for post-secondary education, CST continues to deliver on its mission. The Foundation rewards hard working and community minded Canadian students through scholarships, bursaries and awards programs. CST has helped over 800,000 students achieve their post-secondary dreams.