Canada Student Loans Program

The Canada Student Loans Program is a program of the Canadian government providing financial assistance to postsecondary students. Assistance is offered in the form of grants and loans. Grants are money that students use without having to pay it back. Loans have to be repaid.

The main goal of the program is to make it easier for families and students to get access to postsecondary education. Loans are available to postsecondary students enrolled part- and full-time who demonstrate financial need. The Canada Student Loans Program was started in 1964, and has assisted close to 4 million students with over $15 in loans and grants since its inception. Even though the Canada Student Loans Program is a Canadian federal program, not all provinces and territories participate in the program. Quebec, Nunavut and the Northern Territories have their own Student Loan Programs, which again are financed by the Canadian government.

The federal government delivers financial assistance in cooperation with most territories and provinces. The Canadian government offers 60 percent of the amount, based on assessed need, and the remaining 40 percent are offered as territorial loans or provincial loans.

During the 1964 – 1995 period the student loans were provided by Canadian Banks and financial institutions, to Canadians who qualified to receive financial assistance for a postsecondary education. During this period the government of Canada guaranteed all student loans issued by Canadian financial institutions (if the student defaulted on the student loan the government of Canada had to repay the loan back to the financial institution).

During the 1995 – 2000 period the government of Canada used a so called “risk-sharing” agreement with several Canadian financial institutions, which put the responsibility for the defaulted loans back to the financial institutions, in exchange for a fixed payments from the government of Canada. Since August 2000, the government of Canada directly started financing all Canadian student loans. Students who apply for a loan in their territory or province are automatically considered for inclusion. So, they have to apply for a loan there first. They can obtain an application form from their university’s financial aid office or from the territorial and provincial student assistance offices. In order to be eligible to receive financial assistance, students have to apply every year. To this, students who are enrolled part- and full-time have to provide proof of enrollment as to keep their interest-free status. Educational institutions in Canada are responsible for issuing enrolment forms. The National Student Loans Service Centres offer information about this and related matters while collection of repayments is under the authority of the CRA.

The repayment period starts on the date students leave school or complete their studies. Payments may be postponed for 6 months after this date but interest accumulates. Those who have financial difficulties and are unable to repay their student loan can take advantage of the Repayment Assistance Plan offered by the federal government. Borrowers who experience financial hardship find it easier to manage student debts once they are approved. Payments are made based on family size and income as well as on what the debtor can afford. Borrowers with student loans should apply for the Plan first because enrolment in it is not automatic.

The Repayment Assistance Plan has replaced the Debt Reduction in Repayment and Interest Relief measures. In addition, borrowers can request to increase or decrease their payments by taking advantage of the Revision of Terms measure. It is recommended to persons who cannot service their student loans because of financial hardship or those who want to pay off their student loans within a shorter period of time. Students with a severe permanent disability can apply for the Permanent Disability Benefit. Borrowers may have their student loans forgiven if they suffer from severe permanent disability. However, students are not eligible for debt forgiveness if they obtained student loans between 1995 and 2000. This condition applies regardless of the time when disability occurred.