Canada Student Loans
The Canada Student Loans Program is the largest program offering student financial assistance to Canadians. It was created by the Government of Canada to make postsecondary education accessible to students with financial need. In addition to student loans, the federal government also provides non-repayable funding in the form of grants through the Canada Student Grants Program.
The federal government works in partnership with most provincial/territorial governments to coordinate the delivery of student loans and grants. Jurisdisctions participating in Canada Student Loans Program include all province and territories except Québec, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut (non-participating jurisdictions operate their own financial assistance programs and receive alternative funding from the federal government).
Canada Student Loans are available for full-time and part-time study at designated schools (including certain postsecondary institutions outside of Canada). You must meet all of the following conditions in order to qualify:
- be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident of Canada or a designated protected person;
- be a resident of a province or territory that participates in the Canada Student Loans Program
- demonstrate financial need;
- be enrolled in at least 60% of a full course load if a full-time student (40% for students with permanent disabilities), or 20-59% of a full course load if a part-time student (20-39% for students with permanent disabilities);
- be enrolled in a degree, diploma or certificate program with a duration of at least 12 weeks (within a period of 15 consecutive weeks) at a designated postsecondary institution;
- pass a credit check if you are 22 years of age or older and applying for the first time;
- must not have already exceeded the maximum lifetime limit of financial assistance (in most cases the limit is 340 weeks, including interest-free status, and up to 400 weeks for doctoral students); and
- maintain a satisfactory academic standard in order to keep receiving financial aid.
The amount of funding available through the Canada Student Loans Program is calculated on the basis of assessed financial need. Assessed need is the difference between allowable educational costs and the amount you are expected to contribute based on available financial resources.
Assessed Need = Allowable Costs – Resources
For full-time students, the Canada Student Loans Program provides 60% of the assessed need, up to $210 per week of study; the remaining 40% may be provided through the provincial student loans program. You can receive Canada Student Loans for the number of years in your academic program, plus one extra year if needed to complete the program. There is a maximum lifetime limit of 340 weeks of assistance for full time students (extended by an additional 60 weeks for students enrolled in doctoral studies).
Part-time students can receive up to $10,000 (in combined principal and interest) in Canada Student Loans over the period of studies. There is no maximum time limit of assistance for part-time students.
The federal and provincial governments work together to provide loans to students with financial need. You must apply through the student financial assistance office of your province or territory of permanent residence. A single application will allow you to be considered for provincial student loans, Canada Student Loans and most Canada Student Grants. You must apply every year to receive funding. Remember to review your provincial financial aid program, as you may be eligible for additional forms of assistance that require a separate application.
You are encouraged to apply online to speed up the assessment process. If you want to submit a paper application, the forms can be obtained from your provincial student financial assistance office or at your school.
Check with your provincial student financial assistance office for deadline dates and processing times. The amount of time it takes for a loan application to be processed can vary from a few business days to several weeks depending on your application method (online versus paper), time of year and province. Incomplete documentation can also cause delays. It is best to apply early so you can receive your assessment and funding sooner.
Your provincial student financial student office will assess the completed application and send a notice of assessment notifying you of the outcome. If you qualify for a student loan, you will be provided with a Certificate of Eligibility and a loan agreement, along with information about the funding amount and instructions on how to recieve the money. Depending on your province, you will receive either a single integrated loan (with a portion funded by the federal government and a portion funded by the provincial government) or a Canada Student Loan alongside a provincial student loan.
If your loan application is not approved, and you feel that it was assessed incorrectly or that your circumstances were not properly considered, then you can file an appeal to have the assessment reviewed. Appeal forms can be obtained from your provincial student financial assistance office.
Your Canada Student Loan (or integrated student loan) will be administered by the National Student Loans Service Centre (NSLSC) on behalf of the government. The NSLSC will be the point of contact once your loan application has been approved. Depending on your situation, you may be required to provide additional documentation to the NSLSC to maintain or change your loan status.
If you are a full-time student, the Government of Canada will pay the interest on your Canada Student Loan while you are in school. Part-time students are not subsidized and are responsible for making the interest payments.
Your Canada Student Loans become repayable when you graduate, leave school or exceed the maximum lifetime limit. The loans that you have received during your time in school will be brought together in a single repayment plan; this process is called loan consolidation. The National Student Loans Service Centre will send you a consolidation agreement covering matters such as the repayment schedule, amount of each payment and the applicable interest rate.
Full-time students are entitled to a six-month grace period before the first payment, but interest will start to accumulate during this period (unpaid interest will be added to your principal balance at the time of loan consolidation). For part-time students, the six-month grace period applies to repayment of principal but not interest.
It is important to make timely repayments on your student loans. Failure to do so can have serious financial consequences, including the risk of loan default and a negative impact on your credit rating.
The federal government provides a Repayment Assistance Plan for students who have difficulty repaying their Canada Student Loans. The purpose of the assistance plan is to allow students to make loan payments that they can reasonably afford based on their family income and family size.
Students who need assistance must apply for the Repayment Assistance Plan, as enrolment is not automatic. Contact the NSLSC to discuss repayment assistance options and to obtain an application form.