A mother in Port Coquitlam is regretting her decision to invest in an education savings plan for her child, after learning about the high fees she was being charged.

When Katherine Joly's little girl Megan was born four years ago, she wanted to make sure her daughter would be able to go to university someday. So Joly invested $50 a month in a Registered Education Savings Plan with a company called Knowledge First Financial.

By 2027, Joly would have invested over $10,000 in her daughter's future education. She thought it was a good savings plan, until her husband asked to see the fine print.

"I gave him the paperwork and he was like oh, did you know you paid that many fees?" said Joly.

Of the $2,000 she had invested so far, more than $1,200 had gone to upfront fees.

"I felt like I did a bad thing, when I wanted to do a good thing," she said. 

Knowledge First Financial charges a wide range of fees including a fee for enrolment, administration, insurance, investment counsel, special processing, custodial fee, independent review committee fee and even a fee to make monthly deposits into the savings plan.

CTV News contacted Knowledge First Financial’s president George Hopkinson who defended the company’s RESPs.

"They do have higher fees upfront,” he said, “but they have lower ongoing fees. So the fees overall, over the 18-year period are really reasonable. Once the upfront fee is paid, as was the case for Ms. Joly, the only ongoing fee deducted from contributions is a depository fee of $10 per year for a monthly contribution plan. 

Hopkinson insists those fees are in line with the fees charged by mainstream banks and mutual fund investments.

Ilana Schonwetter, a financial planner at Joly’s Vancity bank, says her financial institution has two types of RESP products, with much lower fees.

"The first is a self -directed plan where you would utilize primarily term deposits and savings accounts. The only fee that would be associated with that would be a twenty five dollar a year trustee fee and twenty five dollars per withdrawal," said Schonwetter.

Vancity's mutual fund RESP has no upfront fees at all, just management fees depending on the fund company you choose.

Joly wishes she'd bought her RESP through Vancity, and has decided to pull what's left of her investment out of the Knowledge First Financial plan. However, to do so Joly would have to pay a transfer fee and won’t get back any of the upfront fees that she paid.

"I was putting money aside for my daughter. I'm very disappointed. I'm very, very disappointed," she said.