Government Loans

Canadian citizens, permanent residents of Canada living in any province for over a year, and protected persons are normally eligible for loans provided by the federal government, through the CSLP, in addition to loans provided by their province of residence.

Loans issued to full-time students are interest free while a student is in full-time studies. Students receiving a Canada Student Loan (CSL) for the first time on or after August 1, 1995, are eligible for up to 340 weeks (~6.5 years) of interest-free assistance. Students in doctoral programs are eligible for an additional 60 weeks, up to 400 weeks (~7.5 years). Students with permanent disabilities and students who received their first CSL prior to August 1, 1995 are eligible for up to 520 weeks of assistance (10 years).

As the length of North American graduate degree programs often exceed this 400 week maximum, students considering graduate study are advised to think carefully before taking out student loans. For example, an honours BA from a Canadian University takes four years, assuming satisfactory progress. MA programs in Canada vary in length from 1-3 years, with two years being the average minimum. A PhD takes, on average, 5 years to complete, although many students take significantly longer than this. Assuming a graduate student completes an honours BA (5 years), an MA (2 years), and a PhD (5 years), one can expect to be in university for at least 12 years. This is significantly longer than the 400 weeks maximum allotted to complete a degree by the National student loan program, and graduate students can easily find themselves in a position where they no longer qualify for student loans. Whether in receipt of student loans or not, students in full-time study are not required to repay their student loans; however, interest begins to accumulate immediately upon reaching the lifetime limit: quoting directly from NSLSC, "Once a lifetime limit has been reached, interest starts to accumulate on your loan.".

Student financial assistance is available for students in part-time studies. Beginning January 1, 2012, the Government of Canada eliminated interest on student loans while borrowers are in-study. Student loan borrowers begin repaying their student loans six months after they graduate or leave school, although interest begins accumulating right away. Grants may supplement loans to aid students who face particular barriers to accessing post-secondary education, such as students with permanent disabilities or students from low-income families.

Students must apply for the Canadian and provincial loans through their provincial government. The rules for what determines your province of residence vary, but normally it is defined as where you have most recently lived for at least 12 consecutive months, not including any time you spent as a full-time student at a post-secondary institution. In most cases, the province of residence is the province one lived in before becoming a post-secondary student.

Canada Student Loans of up to $210 per week of full-time study or 60% of the student's assessed need (the lesser of these) can be issued per loan year (August 1-July 31). Loans issued through provincial programs will normally provide students with enough funding to cover the balance of their assessed need. Part-time loans can be made, but a student cannot be more than $10,000 in debt on part-time loans at any one time. All Canadian students were also eligible for the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation Bursary (CMS Grant) until the program ended in 2008. There are also other grants provided by students' province of residence.