Quality and Productivity Database

Descriptive Title of Proposal: Canada Learning Bond Outreach, an Innovative Approach to Community Involvement
Year Submitted 2016
Person(s) Responsible for the Idea
Name Title
Ralph Nilson President and Vice-Chancellor
Name of Institution Vancouver Island University
Office Address 900 Fifth Street
Nanaimo, British Columbia V9R 5S5
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Telephone: 250-740-6102
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.
Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) William Litchfield
Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Executive Director, Vancouver Island University Foundation
Office Address 900 Fifth Street
Building 310, Room 106
Nanaimo, British Columbia V9R 5S5
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Telephone: 250-740-6602
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.

The Canada Learning Bond (CLB) program at Vancouver Island University (VIU) is an innovative approach to purposeful community involvement. The resource extraction economy of Vancouver Island is transitioning towards a knowledge-based economy. Post-secondary education plays a critical to prepare our youth, and communities to be actively engaged in the potential economic and social transition of the region. VIU’s values are firmly rooted in creating accessible education opportunities for our communities.  We recognize that not all of our youth view university as a viable option for their future and many face barriers, primarily financial, to pursuing a post-secondary education.


The Canada Learning Bond is a federal government program that provides up to $2,000 in Registered Education Saving Plans funding for eligible children to support and encourage families to save for their children’s post-secondary aspirations. This grant is specifically for children, born after 2004 that are living in families with a combined household income less than $45,000 per year.


Vancouver Island University is working with schools, banks, social organizations, government offices and parent organization to remove barriers and to encourage families to register for the Canada Learning Bond. VIU has invested one full time staff person with the goal of increasing registrations in our area to 75% of those eligible (from the current 32% registered). Studies indicate that children with an RESP are six times more likely to complete high school and attend a post-secondary institution[1]. 


VIU has held registration events, liaised with social development organizations that work with families in need and developed new partnerships that have resulted in a 19% increase in Canada Learning Bond registrations over the past two years. We are leading local and provincial promotion of the CLB program and are one of the first PSE organizations to join a national partnership program. Through this initiative and others, like the VIU Tuition Waiver Program for kids aging out of the foster care system, we will be able to create hope, possibility, and opportunity for youth living in low income families while supporting the economic transition in the regions we serve.


[1] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/alberta-s-education-grant-program-needed-for-low-income-families-says-advocate-1.3166648

Criteria Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.

The Canada Learning Bond outreach program is highly transferable across institutions. Through our experience delivering this program over the past three years as well as the experience of our partners across Canada we have created best practice policies and streamlined communications to best reach the target audience. Canadian universities that are dedicated to the community could leverage their connections to implement this program and create new opportunities for youth to access post-secondary education. Vancouver Island University would be prepared to be a program champion or mentor for colleagues across the country that are interested in a CLB outreach initiative. VIU recently reached out to four post-secondary institutions on Vancouver Island to promote this program.

Quality Impact

Despite the fact that the number of children living in low-income households in Nanaimo continues to grow, we have made good progress on getting more of those children signed up for the Canada Learning Bond. We have seen a 19% increase over the past two years. Some of the notable accomplishments include; engaging First Nations Child and Family services, partnering with the local health authority to have the information provided to every new child born in the region and working with over 120 elementary schools on Vancouver Island to provide every kindergarten student with the program and registration information. We are currently working with Parent Advisory Committees (PAC’s) in local schools to arrange registration events and provide incentives for the PAC’s to engage with VIU as advocates and partners.

Productivity Impact

The Canada Learning Bond is a federal grant program that provides a significant benefit to low-income families, however the long-term outcomes have not been realized, as the pilot students have not yet reached the PSE level. Through our outreach we are changing the perception of who can aspire to attend post-secondary education and support families in our communities to access available funding supports. We are creating a framework for conversations about education savings, financial literacy, the importance of planning, and the importance of having a post-secondary education. VIU is initiating the dialogue around attending post-secondary education, particularly with families where there has not been a culture of attending PSE.  Establishing an RESP creates new aspirations, dreams, and realities of what is possible. This program will support the economic and social transition of our region.

Additional Material of Interest:

  • To view a YouTube video of our President, Ralph Nilson talking about the Canada Learning Bond program, click here.
  • This fun video called “Sooner Than you Think” was created to raise awareness of the Canada Learning Bond, and to remind parents that it is never too early to start planning for the big dream your kids have.
  • Canada Learning Bond outreach postcard  (attached)
  • “Get a Head Start” postcard (attached)

The Quality and Productivity Awards often focus on innovative process improvements and cost savings measures that are essential to the health and growth of universities in Canada. While these initiatives are important, it is equally important that universities play an active role in the social health of the communities in which they exist. The Canada Learning Bond outreach program allows Vancouver Island University to participate in a purposeful way in our community, addressing the issues of poverty and reducing financial barriers to PSE attainment. The CLB program empowers families to establish an RESP and spark a dialogue about future educational opportunities, which were previously thought to be out of reach. VIU is one of the leading Canadian post-secondary institutions engaged in this work. This project supports the work of our Enrollment Management Office by increasing the profile of VIU in the community as well as positioning VIU as a post-secondary institution that is committed to creating accessible opportunities.