What's the best way to invest in education? How can you pay for it?
I understand that there are scholarships, bursairies, awards, loans, etc. but still.
Let me comment first on the subject of scholarships, because this is something I know a fair bit about, having been down that path myself. Back in 1997, I made approximately $15k from scholarships prior to entering university -- likely more than I could have ever made working a few minimum-wage summer jobs -- but be warned, it is not an easy path.
Off the top of my head, some of the bigger-named "third-party" scholarships that you may want to consider (assuming they still exist; it has been many years since I've looked) include:
Canadian Merit Scholarship Foundation
Miller Thomson Scholarship
Terry Fox Scholarship
TD Canada Trust Scholarship
Of course, most universities have their own scholarships -- e.g., for doing well on the Descartes at Waterloo, and so forth. Your children will need to start early, get very good grades, and will probably have to undertake a considerable amount of volunteer activities (e.g., volunteer at a foodbank) as well as student leadership roles (e.g., student newspaper, start a club, student government, etc.). Your kids will also need to have received some kind of recognition for personal extracurricular activities (e.g., good grades on Royal Conservatory tests, or medals in sports competitions, or the like).
My understanding (from a female colleague) is that it is slightly easier if you're a woman because there tends to be less competition; your mileage may vary. This is a tough path suitable to a select few.
My general philosophy is that university-bound kids shouldn't work during the school year -- they should focus on school, extracurricular activities, and "beefing up" their portfolios to better-position themselves for scholarships. (Jobs can be undertaken during the summer months.)
I believe that, by far, a sound financial decision would be for your child to attend a co-op university program. (I did, and graduated with a substantial surplus in the bank, even after years of grad school.) From personal experience, I would consider admittance to, say, a co-op engineering programme to be at roughly the same level as a $100k scholarship offered in a non-co-op programme. The experience component, at the same time, is literally priceless.
A bit more personal insight on this topic: back in 1997, I was offered a $50k President's Scholarship to attend engineering at Queen's. The dean of the faculty of engineering called me at home and spoke to me about it. I turned Queen's down and opted, instead, for engineering at Waterloo, where I had received a $1687 engineering entrance scholarship -- was this a financial mistake on my part? Not at all. I ended up making far more money through the co-op programme than I ever
could have made through scholarships. (At least, that was back when scholarships were taxed; that conclusion may be a bit different nowadays, but I suspect not by much.)
Start an RESP.
I use a self-directed RESP approach where I invest in well-priced, dividend-paying stocks with a substantial "moat" of protection, both from the perspective of the valuation and from the perspective of the price that I pay. I am a staunch adherent to the philosophies of Ben Graham (cf. his book, "The Intelligent Investor"). This approach isn't suitable for many people.