Charitable Choices: Andrew Lo of the Embark Student Foundation

Andrew Lo leads Embark, a charity dedicated to making education planning and saving more accessible for Canadians. Through initiatives like scholarships and grants, Embark supports students and families in navigating the high costs of post-secondary education. Andrew’s commitment to democratizing education stems from his career in developing technologies to help Canadians make the most of their resources. We chatted with Andrew further about the Student Foundation and what the future looks like for students.

Embark Student Foundation

Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.

The Embark Student Foundation was established to make education planning and saving more accessible for all. We want to make the path to and through post-secondary school easier and more affordable for Canadians.

To achieve this, we recognize extraordinary students every year, giving them scholarships as part of the Embark Student Awards Program. We also donate millions to innovative programs that are meant to improve the student experience through the Embark Student Foundation Major Grants Program.

On a broader level, Embark helps families comfortably plan and save for their child’s future, with tailored registered education savings plans and digital tools that help them track and map their savings goals anytime, anywhere.

What problem does it aim to solve?

It’s no secret – a post-secondary education can be expensive. Right now in Ontario, many students can expect to pay upwards of $30,000 for four years worth of university tuition, without factoring in things like textbooks, rent and other living expenses. This is causing many students and families to take on significant debt.

Outside of this, the whole process of planning and saving for education can be extremely opaque. It’s hard to know what your options are, how much you’ll need, where to start or even how to get everything you’re entitled to.

That’s where we come in. By providing families with the resources and saving tools they need to navigate the entire process, and by funding vital programs that support access and student life, we can ensure kids have the best chance to succeed without having to take on significant debt.

When did you start/join it?

I’ve been with the organization for over a year.

What made you want to get involved?

It was an easy decision. I’ve spent my entire career coming up with new technologies and ways to help Canadians get more for their money. The idea of using my experience to help democratize education and make it more accessible and affordable for Canadians everywhere is something that, to me, is extremely important and will lead to a much brighter future.

What was the situation like when you started?

The cost of education was, and still is, very high. Coupled with that, there was a lot of economic uncertainty out there that placed significant strain on households. For instance, last year our research showed that while 89 per cent of parents polled wanted their children to pursue a post-secondary education, 87 per cent believed it was becoming increasingly unaffordable.

How has it changed since?

We’re making things better. Just this year, we released a variety of new tools and programs to truly help families and students throughout their post-secondary journeys. The Embark Student Foundation Major Grants Program, for example, gave $2.7 million to post-secondary institutions to support innovative programs, services and initiatives that have a positive impact on student experiences in Canada. This includes Toronto Metropolitan University’s entrepreneurial incubation program, DMZ, which received $500,000 to expand, enabling a broader range of students, particularly from underrepresented communities, to participate.

From a proprietary standpoint, we’ve also made significant strides in planning and saving for education digital. We’ve built digital insight tools that help you forecast how much your child will need for their education based on your collective goals, and soon, students will be able to use our platform to identify programs that’ll help lead them to professions they’re interested in.

What more needs to be done?

There’s a lot that still needs to be done. With costs continuing to rise, we need to come together to help Canadians better afford an education and take hold of their future.

How can our readers help?

Whether you’re a parent, friend or student, just starting the conversation about the cost of education and saving for school can have a very real effect on helping people avoid debt and access the education needed to pursue their dreams.

This doesn’t have to happen right when someone is about to go to school either. When it comes to personal finance, timing is everything. The more time you have, the better you can comfortably save and the more time your money has to grow.

Do you have any events coming up?

Keep up-to-date with us by visiting our website.

Where can we follow you?


PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?

An awesome charity you should check out is Open Medicine Foundation Canada. There are also many mentorship programs around that inspire growth, innovation and entrepreneurship, like JA Canada.


About Emilea Semancik 89 Articles
Emilea Semancik was born in North Vancouver. Emilea has always always wanted to freelance her own pieces and currently writes for the Vancouver Guardian. She is also a recipe author working towards publishing her own series of recipe books. You can find her recipes on Instagram. @ancestral.foods