British Columbia Student Aid Program
British Columbia residents can receive financial assistance for postsecondary education through StudentAid BC, which is a partnership between the Government of British Columbia and the Government of Canada. StudentAid BC provides loans, bursaries, grants and scholarships to allow students to overcome financial hurdles. When you apply for assistance you’ll be able to fill out a single application to receive funding from both the provincial and federal governments, but repayment of student loans will be handled separately by each level of government.
The following eligibility criteria must be met in order to receive financial assistance through StudentAid BC:
- You must be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident of Canada, or a protected person
- You must be a resident of British Columbia
- Your social insurance number must not begin with 0, 3 or 8
- You must be enrolled in an eligible program at an approved institution
- You must be able to demonstrate financial need
- You must take at least 60% of a full course load, or 40% if you have a permanent disability
- You must maintain satisfactory academic standing
- If you have received a student loan in the past then it must be in good standing
- You must not have exceeded the lifetime maximum limit for funding
If you are taking from 20% to 59% of a full course load then you will be considered a part-time student. Part-time students are eligible to apply for federal financial assistance through StudentAid BC.
Full-time students can use the StudentAid BC online application system to request financial assistance, including student loans provided by the provincial and federal governments. Alternatively, you can obtain a paper application form through StudentAid BC or from your student financial aid office. Apply early to allow sufficient time for processing and to ensure that the funds will be ready when your program begins. The final application deadline is six weeks before the end of your program.
Part-time students must apply for financial assistance using a part-time studies application form that can be obtained from the StudentAid BC website or from the student financial aid office. This form will allow you to apply for a Part-Time Canada Student Loan, Canada Study Grant for High-Need Part-Time Students, Canada Study Grant for Students with Dependants, Canada Access Grant for Students with Permanent Disabilities and Supplemental Bursary for Students with Disabilities. You will need to deliver the application to the financial aid office at your school, from where it will be sent to StudentAid BC. The latest you can apply for the part-time student assistance program is eight weeks before your program ends.
You may also be eligible for other grants, bursaries and scholarships that require a separate application. There are many awards available so don’t forget to check if you qualify for any of them.
Receiving Financial Aid
StudentAid BC will process your application and send you a notification of assessment stating whether or not you have been approved for financial assistance. If you have been approved, you will be informed of the type of funding, amount you will receive, when it will be available and where it will be sent.
If you are approved for student loans, you will also receive legal documents outlining the terms and conditions. The Master British Columbia Student Loan Agreement is sent the first time you are approved for a provincial student loan and remains in effect for subsequent loans. The Canada Student Loan Agreement is sent each time you are approved for a federal student loan. Make sure you read and understand these documents.
To receive your British Columbia Student Loan, you must first visit a designated Canada Post outlet to confirm your identity and to submit your loan agreement for processing. Next, you must ensure that StudentAid BC has confirmation of your enrollment at the postsecondary institution. Your British Columbia Student Loan will be directly deposited into your bank account. Note that students under the age of 19 will need a guarantor in order to receive the funding.
The process for receiving your Canada Student Loan is similar to the one outlined above, but it is not exactly the same. The first step is confirmation of enrolment, following which you will receive your Certificate of Eligibility and Canada Student Loan Agreement. Then you must visit a designated Canada Post outlet to confirm your identity and submit the student loan agreement for processing. The student loan funds will be deposited via electronic transfer.
How Much Will You Receive?
The amount of funding that you’ll receive depends on your financial need as assessed by StudentAid BC. The assessed financial need is calculated as follows:
Assessed Financial Need = Educational Costs – Student Resources
Your allowable educational costs include items such as tuition, books, moderate living costs, transportation costs, etc. StudentAid BC will expect you to contribute as much as you can based on available resources, which consist of your personal income, personal assets, parental income (if still dependent) and spousal income (if applicable). Any difference between the educational costs and student resources will result in an assessed financial need.
The maximum amount of funding you can receive in loans and grants as a full-time student is $320 per week ($510 per week if you have dependent children). There are also lifetime maximum limits of 340 weeks of funding for Canada Student Loans (400 weeks for doctoral studies) and 520 weeks of funding or $50,000 for British Columbia Student Loans.
It is possible that you may not agree with the assessment of your application by StudentAid BC. If you feel that your financial circumstances were not properly taken into consideration then you can file an appeal by completing an appeal request form.
You do not have to make any loan payments while enrolled as a full-time student, and the provincial and federal governments will pay the interest on your loans during this period. Part-time students are required to make interest payments but they do not have to repay the principal while in school.
You must maintain satisfactory academic standing in order to keep receiving financial aid. Failure to progress or withdrawal from full-time studies can adversely impact your eligibility for more assistance and your interest-free status.
You must report any changes in your financial or educational situation to StudentAid BC as soon as possible.
Repayment of your loans will commence after you graduate, stop attending school, or reach your lifetime maximum limit. After you stop attending classes as a full-time student, the interest on the loans will begin to accumulate, but you will have a grace period of six months during which you won’t have to make any interest or principal payments. In that time you will be responsible for contacting the institutions that lent you the money to arrange for repayment.
Note that your provincial and federal loans will be paid back separately and to different institutions. Payments for British Columbia Student Loans will be made to the financial institutions administering the loans, while Canada Student Loan payments will be made to the National Student Loans Service Centre.
Handle your student loans responsibly because they can seriously affect your credit rating and spending power in the future. If you face difficulties in repaying the loans then help is available but you have to proactively seek it. The provincial and federal governments offer programs that can help you to deal with both principal and interest payments on your loans. Make sure you catch the problem before it spirals out of control.