If you are enrolled in a post-secondary program (education after high school) you might be able to get financial help from the Canadian or BC government. The government provides different types of student aid:
- Loans –based on need; you must pay them back with interest
- Grants – based on need; you don’t have to pay them back
- Scholarships – based on your past performance; you don’t have to pay them back
All student aid in BC is administered through StudentAid BC. This includes federal government (Canada) student loans. If you want more information than what you find here, see the StudentAid BC website or the Can Learn website.
Getting student aid
To be get student aid you must be:
- a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or an immigrant granted refugee protection; and
- accepted into, or enrolled in, a full- or part-time degree, diploma or certificate program at a designated postsecondary institution.
All public colleges and universities in Canada are “designated”, but so are many other types of educational and training organizations. Some examples are Aveda Institute, the Canadian Flight Centre and Interior Heavy Operator Equipment School. To find out if the school you are attending is designated, search the Student Aid BC website.
To get student aid, you have to show that you need the financial help to go to school. If you are considered a “dependent” student and your parents’ income is above a certain level, you may not be able to get any student aid. You are a dependent student if:
- you have never been married or in a common-law relationship; and
- you have never been a single parent with legal custody and financial responsibility for supporting child(ren); and
- you are pursuing post-secondary education within four years of leaving high school; or
- you have not worked full-time for two years.
You can figure out what StudentAid BC thinks your parents’ contribution should be by using CanLearn’s Parental Contribution Calculator. This applies even if your parents can’t or won’t help you financially while you are in school. To apply for student aid, go to the StudentAid BC website. You can do your application online. Your school might have an office that helps with student aid.
Your loan while you’re in school
There are some things you need to do after you get your loan:
- Continue your full-time studies
- Pay your tuition and fees first (before you spend money on other things)
- Let StudentAid BC know about any changes to your program and study dates. You also have to let them know if you get married, have or adopt a child. See the Report Changed Circumstances page on the StudentAid BC website for more details.
- Keep StudentAid BC up to date if your contact information changes and whether you are still in school. This is especially important if you return to school after the time your loan covers, but don’t get new loans. If you don’t tell them you are back at school, you could be required to start paying back your loan.
For more details about what your responsibilities while you are in school see the Maintain your Loan page on the StudentAid BC website.
Repaying your loan
You have to start paying back your loan, with interest, six months after you graduate or leave school. But the interest on your loan will start as soon as you graduate or leave school.
The National Student Loans Service Centre (NSLSC) will automatically send you a consolidation agreement about 45 days before you have to start repaying the loan. Consolidation just means that you have a date when you have to start repaying the loan.
Your consolidation agreement shows:
- The details of your what you owe on all your loans (Canada and BC)
- Your monthly payment and when it is due
- How long you have to repay
- The interest rate charged on your loan
- The bank account they will take the loan payments from
Make sure StudentAid BC has your up-to-date banking information. You can increase the amount of your monthly payments, or change the day your monthly payment comes out of your account or the type of interest rate.
Generally, you have up to nine and a half years to repay your loan. If you need to reduce your monthly payment amount, you can ask for more time. But remember, if you increase the amount of time you take to pay off your loan, you will end up paying more in interest. Contact the National Student Loan Service Centre to discuss the best option for you at 1-888-815-4514 (within North America), 800-2-225-2501 (outside North America), or use the email contact form on their website.
Your credit rating stays in good standing when you meet the terms of the consolidation agreement and repayment schedule by making your monthly payments on time.
Having trouble paying back a loan
The federal and provincial governments have programs to help you repay your loan.
The Repayment Assistance Plan that can help you if you are having difficulty paying back your loan. There is also a loan forgiveness program for certain professions if you agree to work in an under-served area of the province. There is a loan reduction program for full-time students who have had to borrow most of the money they’ve needed to go to school.
Don’t just stop paying your loan payments! This is called “defaulting” and if you default on your loan, you get charged extra interest and might not be given loans later. Plus, you might have to deal with a collection agency and possibly face legal action. You could also end up with a bad credit rating.
Bankruptcy and student loans
You might have heard that if you declare bankruptcy after graduating you won’t have to pay back your student loans. This isn’t true. When you are discharged from bankruptcy (the point in the bankruptcy process when your loans are forgiven), you will still have to pay back any student loans if you declared bankruptcy within seven years of when you stopped being a student.