Canada Student Loans 2021

How do student loans work?

Student loans are offered to both full-time and part-time post-secondary students through the national and provincial government. You can apply for grants and loans that are given to you each semester. Grants do not need to be repaid and loans do not need to be repaid until you graduate.

Since interest doesn’t accrue on loans during the interest-free period, you get the money with no strings attached and repay the same amount when you graduate. Generally, the interest-free period will last for the entire duration of your schooling, but the maximum duration is 340 weeks for full-time students, 400 weeks for doctoral students, and 520 weeks for students with disabilities.

Each student is eligible for different amounts of grants and loans depending on several factors, which include:

  • Your province/territory of residence
  • Your household income
  • Whether or not you have dependents
  • Any eligible disabilities
  • Your total cost of tuition and living expenses

National Student Loans

The National Student Loan Service Centre (NSLSC) manages all student loans for Canada, including both provincial and national loans. While you apply and are approved for loans through your provincial or territorial assistance program, the NSLSC handles the disbursement and repayment of the loans. Once you are approved, the NSLSC will be the one that deposits money into your bank account and when your interest-free period ends, you will have to make payments to the NSLSC. To apply for and receive student loans or grants, you will have to register with both yourprovincial assistance program and the NSLSC.

How to Apply for Student Loans

Depending on where you live, the application process may differ between provinces, however, in all cases, you will have to create an account with your provincial assistance program and the NSLSC. To apply for your provincial assistance program, you will have to provide some basic personal information including your:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Gender
  • Contact information
  • Social Insurance Number (SIN)

You must then create an NSLSC account and will have to provide your:

  • Social Insurance Number (SIN)
  • Bank account information (transit, institution, and account number)
  • Master Student Financial Assistance Agreement (MSFAA) number (10 digits)
  • Basic Personal Information

National Student Loan Login

Once you have registered for an account with the NSLSC, you will be able to login using one of their sign-in partners, which includes 14 financial institutions, or by using your GCKey if you do not have a bank account with the following:

  • Affinity Credit Union
  • Alberta Treasury Branches
  • BMO Financial Group
  • CIBC Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce
  • Conexus Credit Union
  • Desjardins Group
  • National Bank of Canada
  • RBC Royal Bank
  • Scotiabank
  • Servus Credit Union
  • Simplii Financial
  • Tangerine
  • TD Bank Group
  • Vancity

If you choose to use a GCKey, you will have to sign up for one and create security questions that you must answer when you log in.

Provincial Student Assistance Programs

Each province offers a unique student assistance service to help expedite the student loans and grant application process. With just one application through their respective dedicated websites, you will be considered for a loan and several grants.

Alberta Student Loans

Students in Alberta can apply for student assistance through Alberta Student Aid. By creating an account, you can apply for loans, grants, and scholarships to help pay for post-secondary education. To qualify for student aid, you must:

  • Maintain academic progress
  • Meet residency/citizenship requirements
  • Demonstrate financial need
  • Enroll in an approved program

With a single application, you will be eligible for both grants and loans, but you will only be considered for certain scholarships. For certain scholarships, you must submit additional application materials. See a full list of scholarships here.

British Columbia Student Loans

Students in British Columbia can apply for student assistance through StudentAid BC. You can apply for loans, grants, and scholarships directly from their website. To qualify for student aid, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or official protected person
  • Have a valid Canadian social insurance number (SIN)
  • Reside in British Columbia
  • Pursue full-time studies (or part-time studies) in an eligible program in an eligible post-secondary institution
  • Demonstrate financial need (Educational costs less any other Student Resources)

You will be automatically assessed for grants and loans when submitting a loan application, but you will have to submit separate applications for awards and scholarships.

Manitoba Student Loans

Manitoba Student Aid is a centralized website for students to apply for loans and grants. Even if you haven’t been officially accepted to a university program, you can apply online if you know your school, program, and start and end dates. If you are applying for the second time in the same program year or part-time studies, you must submit a paper application.

To receive a scholarship or sponsorship, you must apply separately and fill out a sponsoring agency form.

New Brunswick Student Loans

The Government of New Brunswick provides students with financial assistance through their student financial services website. They offer loans, grants, and bursaries, which you are automatically considered for through a single application. To apply, you must:

  • Be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or protected person
  • Be a resident of New Brunswick
  • Demonstrate financial need
  • Have a valid social insurance number (SIN)
  • Enroll in a 60% full-time course load (40% for disabled students) for a full-time loan or 20%-59% for a part-time loan) - minimum 12 weeks duration
  • Pass a credit check if you are 22 years of age or older

To apply for scholarships, ask your guidance counselor or view New Brunswick’s scholarship databases.

Newfoundland and Labrador Student Loans

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador lets you apply for student aid through the NL government website. You will be considered for both federal and provincial financial assistance with one application. To be eligible, you must:

  • Be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or protected person
  • Reside in Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Provide a valid social insurance number (SIN)
  • Demonstrate financial need
  • Pass a credit check if you are 22 years of age or older
  • Pursue full-time (or part-time) studies at a designated educational institution

Nova Scotia Student Loans

Through Nova Scotia’s official government website, you can apply for a 0% interest student loan. This means that after you graduate, your loan will not incur any interest and your repayment will be limited to the amount you borrowed. You can log in and apply through Nova Scotia’s student portal once you gather the following information:

  • Bank and investment account information
  • Any information related to custody of any of your dependents
  • Documents related to any disabilities if applicable
  • Parents/step-parents/spouse’s income tax returns
  • Your school program and the number of classes/credits you will be taking
  • Any scholarship information
  • An estimate of pre-study and study-period earnings
  • Information regarding any other funding

You can find a full list of scholarships on the My NS Future website.

Ontario Student Loans

The Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) is one of the largest student assistance programs in Canada. You can get loans and grants on a federal and provincial level with one application. Once you create an account, you will be able to access the website with your OSAP Access Number (OAN) and submit an application for full-time studies, part-time studies, or micro-credentials programs. If you are in full-time studies and are not re-applying for OSAP, you can simply request for your loans to be interest-free while you are in full-time studies. To submit an OSAP application, you will require:

  • A valid Social Insurance Number (SIN)
  • Information about your school and program
  • Your parents’ or spouse’s SIN (if applicable)
  • Your tax information (found on your income tax return)
  • Your parents’ or spouse’s tax information (if applicable)

You may also be eligible for more money if you are one of the following:

  • An indigenous student
  • A student with a permanent disability
  • A current or former Crown ward

To apply for scholarships, you can visit Student Awards or Scholarships Canada.

Prince Edward Island Student Loans

Prince Edward Island’s official government website works differently than other provinces. As a PEI student, you are eligible for a bursary between $4,400 and $8,800 without any application when you enroll as a first-time student at UPEI, Holland College, Maritime Christian College, or College de l’Ile. This is unique because you do not need to meet any eligibility requirements and you simply receive this money. For further financial aid, you can apply for a student loan if you meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Have a valid Social Insurance Number (SIN)
  • Be a PEI resident and Canadian citizen (or landed immigrant/permanent resident)
  • Enroll in a designated post-secondary institution as a full-time student

You can receive grants if you have permanent disabilities (Up to $12,000), or as a low-income, full-time student with dependents ($400 per month per dependent). You can also apply for individual scholarships and bursaries.

Quebec Student Loans

Canada Student Loans and Grants (from the NSLSC) are not available to students whose primary residence is Quebec. Instead, the Quebec government offers a financial aid service to Quebec residents through their Student Financial Assistance website. Here, you can apply for loans and bursaries as a full-time student and loans as a part-time student. To be eligible, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, refugee, or protected person
  • Reside in Quebec when applying for financial assistance
  • Have confirmed admission to a recognized educational institution
  • Be a full-time or part-time student in a recognized program
  • Have less debt than your debt limit
  • Demonstrate financial need

There are several scholarships available for students through different providers. While you should do further research, the following websites are a good place to start:

Saskatchewan Student Loans

The Saskatchewan government offers student assistance on their official website where students can submit a single application to be considered for both loans and grants. You are eligible for financial assistance in Saskatchewan if you meet the following requirements:

  • You have lived in Saskatchewan for at least 12 consecutive months before the first day of your study period
  • You are a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or protected person
  • Demonstrate financial need
  • Enroll in a designated post-secondary school in an approved program as a full-time (60% course load, 40% for disabled students) student or a part-time (20%-59% course load) student
  • Pass a credit check if you are 22 years of age or older
  • Have a valid Social Insurance Number (SIN)

During the application process, you may be asked for SINs, HSNs, and/or personal information from your parents, spouse, or dependents. Further details can be found on their application guide and handbook. There are also many scholarships available, which can be found through different sources like their official website or Saskatchewan Scholarships.

Canada Student Loan Interest Rate

On student loans, the interest rate will only apply after your interest-free period, which in most cases, means you will not pay interest for your full school term. When this period expires, you can pick from a few options related to your repayment including the:

  • Monthly payment withdrawal date
  • Payment frequency
  • Bank account used for repayment
  • Interest rate option

Interest Rate Options: When you have to start making payments on your loan, you have two options:

  1. Pick a floating interest rate equal to the prime rate: Your interest rate will be exactly equal to the current prime rate. Any time the prime rate changes, the interest rate on your loan will change to match it.
  2. Pick a fixed interest rate equal to the prime rate plus 2%. You would start with the same interest rate as the first option, but this rate would be 2% higher and fixed throughout your loan term.

The best option depends on how long you expect your loan to last. Since the prime rate is very low right now, pick the floating interest rate option if you will repay your loan quickly. If you plan on paying off your loan over many years, then pick the fixed interest rate option.