How COVID-19 Impacts Student Loans in Alberta

Student aid Alberta
TLDR

The deferment lasts until September 30, 2020

Interest will not be added to the loan during the pause

Additional $3,000 was offered as part of COVID-19 Funding Allowance

Track changes in programs to keep full-time status

For Starters You Are Not Alone

This is undoubtedly a trying time for students, educational institutions and governmental bodies. Staying informed about all the changes is hard, especially when you owe thousands of dollars of student aid in Alberta.

Alberta students loans amount to roughly 18% more than the rest of Canada. Dodge Cahan, Assistant Economics Professor at the University of Alberta, highlights the most recent National Graduates Survey from 2015. 

All Sources (Gov & Private):

% of graduates with debt% of graduates with over $25,000 in debtAvg. amount owed at graduation
Canada student loans 49% 20% $15,300
Alberta student loans 53% 27% $18,100

Government sponsored loans:

% of graduates with debt% of graduates with over $25,000 in debtAvg. amount owed at graduation
Canada student loans 35% 17% $14,200
Alberta student loans 39% 26% $17,700

“So, as you can see, Alberta is somewhat above the national average,” says Cahan.

Mo Money Mo Problems

First of all, according to the Student Aid Alberta website “No Albertan should be worried about their student loan repayment obligations during this time.” 

Canadian student loans

There are caveats and important IF’s:

  • The deferment lasts until September 30, 2020
  • Interest will not be added to the loan during the pause
  • Applies to students currently in collections
  • Automatic bill payments need to be cancelled with your bank
  • Interest will end up being higher than initially planned for some loans. When the principal stays high interest owed on that amount does not change. So, six months of interest owed will end up being more money than paying it off according to the initial payment plan.

Need a new computer? Internet is wacky? Lost a job due to COVID-19?

Well, an additional $3,000 has been allotted for circumstances such as these. You may qualify for the enhanced COVID-19 Funding Allowance. 

Important note, the COVID-19 Funding Allowance was available prior to July 31, 2020. There has yet to be an update if the additional 3k is on the table.

Professor Cahan also notes, “raising the maximum weekly amount that can be provided to a student in 2020-21 from $210 to $350.”

It is unclear how these additional funds will continue into the future. However, the government is currently planning additional measures, especially in light of surges in new COVID-19 cases around the world.

Full-Time – Your Loan May be in Jeopardy

Students who have a loan need to keep their full-time student status. It’s crucial that they are aware of any changes due to the pandemic and overall curriculum constraints.

Student loan programs 2020

The main goal is to stay above 59% of your initial course load. This will ensure that you stay with the full-time status. If you are uncertain, hit-up your advisor for a consultation.

Don’t drop a course and become part-time. Simple, however fairly complex considering all the changes of late.

Programs in Flux

“The government has taken steps to help students with loans, and in particular to expand who is eligible and the amount for which they are eligible,” says Cahan.

Departmental deans and heads of faculties alike have the power to assign or recommend credits in unique situations where students simply cannot finish a course. Students throughout the nation have faced many challenges during these trying times and unfortunately, not all are able to adapt to classes taught remotely.

With this in mind, you can expect that not all curriculums will necessarily harmonize with a virtual learning environment or able to withstand the mandatory precautions required for in-person lessons.

It’s important to check if the program you enrolled in is still available and operational.

A few tips to check if a program is still active:

  1. Search the faculty directory for the professor or teacher responsible for the curriculum in question.
  2. Send a mail or call to ask about the status of the program.
  3. Get confirmation by email from staff, professor or guidance counsellor.

Applying For Student Loans in Alberta – Will You Get Accepted?

Change in credits or marks that show diplomas are not fully complete could be in question during an application process. Many institutions have to make decisions on the fly. This is an unprecedented time.

If you lived somewhere else for 12 months prior to the start date of your program, apply for a student loan from your previous province where you resided.

Hello Representative… No Operator…No Customer Service

The Alberta Student Aid Service Centre reports notable changes due to COVID-19 and work from home policies. “As a result, we are unable to process paper forms in a timely manner.”

One important note, applications are no longer being accepted in person.

To contact the Alberta Student Aid Service Centre they are available Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Alberta time (MST).

How Long Will it Take?

It can take up to six weeks to hear back about your loan. This was prior to COVID-19, so it could likely take longer. Don’t be shy to contact multiple times by phone or email. Students need a response and a month and a half can be a long time. 

Student aid opportunities in Alberta

There are a plethora of opportunities to consider. Everything from scholarships to grants to loans can be found at Alberta Student Aid.

Canada student loans program

How to Apply for Student Loans

Apply to loans at least two months prior to the qualifications periods:

  • August 1st
  • July 31st

The details of applying can be found here. It’s recommended to read the Student Loans & Grants Funding guide.

It’s Broken Into Three Steps

  • Step 1 – Create an Account
  • Step 2 – Verify your Identity
  • Step 3 – Complete the Application

From time to time the system will not work on Sundays from 3 a.m. until 11 a.m.


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