Thinking of applying for a student loan? Then you’ve come to the right place. We’ll provide all of the tips and tricks you need to have a seamless application process.
The current student loans program is friendlier than it used to be. Many who were not eligible in the past are now eligible. See below for eligibility requirements or contact us if you are in doubt.
What is the difference between a student loan and a line of credit?
Student loans are interest-free during schooling, often include grants and do not need to be repaid for a grace period of six months after graduation (though interest does accrue during this time with the exception of Alberta student loans). In addition, interest paid is tax deductible when you are in repayment. For these reasons and for the repayment program options, student loans are always preferable to a student line of credit.
Student lines of credit available at banks do not share any of the benefits of student loans. Most lines of credit require you to begin paying interest immediately. In addition, there are no grace periods and it is difficult to renegotiate your repayment terms.
Government student loans are based on demonstrated need and consider your marital/family/living away status (and apply a standard living allowance based on this) and educational costs for one continuous period of study (not more than 12 consecutive months).
You must apply for your loan with the province you have lived in for the most recent 12 consecutive months not as a post-secondary student. In other words, if you have moved to Alberta for post-secondary education, you need to apply for your loan through your home province, not Alberta.
- Student loans are available to Canadian citizens and permanent residents.
- Student loans are available for:
- Full-time study (nine credits per term in fall or winter; four and a half in a two-month term; or six for students with disabilities in regular terms who qualify for a reduced course-load through Accessibility Services).
- Apprenticeships (through the Canada Apprenticeship Loan program and Student Aid Alberta).
- Pre-employment (through Student Aid Alberta only).
- Part-time study (fewer than nine credits per regular term).
Note: You cannot apply for part-time study loans or grants online but you can download the paper form from your provincial website.
- Academic upgrading courses are not eligible for student loans. However, there are some funding options available: see Alberta Works information.
- You are expected to contribute a provincially-established minimum amount of savings. This amount varies by province and circumstance.
- When it is deemed appropriate, parents may also be expected to contribute. If you are an Alberta student, you may apply without disclosing information about parental contributions. However, this means foregoing federal government grants.
National Student Loans Service Centre offers this introductory webinar: https://players.brightcove.net/2456793370001/Hkv5PUW4G_default/index.html?videoId=5859470801001
Learn the process
It’s in your best interest to understand the government loan process. Applications are renewed annually and are available in June for the upcoming academic year.
Your provincial student loan web site is very helpful but we can provide an overview of the steps involved and walk you through any points you may find difficult along the way over the phone (403.320.3372) or via email. email@example.com
1. Go to your province's student loan site (Google 'student loan' and your province - that will get you there). Have your provincial student number (from your high school transcript or obtainable from your provincial web site), your Social Insurance Number and your Line 150 from your most recent tax return handy. (Line 150 is your gross income - all the money you made before any deductions. If you didn't work or made very little you may enter 0 or what you figure is a close estimate if you can't locate this (though you if you can't you should start learning how to file things - your student loan information should be kept in a file along with your tax information).
2. Create an account or log in with your established username and password for the secure access site. Record this information and keep it with your student loan papers or electronic records (while largely digital, printing some of the more important documents is a good idea for easy reference). Each academic year you will apply again so be sure to retain this information to save yourself some steps.
3. Complete the application - be sure to select the appropriate academic year. You will be asked to provide personal, educational and financial information. Again, if you have trouble, contact us. Be sure to use monthly figures where required (this is a common error). If you are an Alberta borrower you will see the amounts for tuition, fees, books and supplies displayed - copy these into the fields provided unless you know your costs will be lower. Applications by students from other provinces trigger a request for this information from us.
4. Leave the 'amount requested' blank unless you want to limit your debt. Leaving this field blank will net you all that you are eligible for based on the information you have provided. Enter $1.00 if you are only interested in being considered for grants.
5. Review to ensure accuracy and check for errors, then submit. You should receive an estimate of what your award will likely be.
6. Watch your student loan digital mailbox. Alberta borrowers receive two separate Master Student Financial Aid Agreements (MSFAAs) - one for the province and one for the federal portion of your loan. Your federal MSFAA must be completed electronically - instructions are provided in your Student Aid inbox. The Alberta MSFAA must be printed and signed by hand. Follow instructions carefully. Call us if you are confused. Both of these documents must be completed before any money will be released to you even if we have confirmed your loan.
7. We will be requesting your tuition and fees (as long as there are sufficient funds) directly from your loan. If any loan balance remains after Lethbridge College has requested funds for your first semester, it will be deposited into your bank account. We will send an email to your lethbridgecollege.ca account so watch your College emails. If you make changes after the date we confirm your loan and request funds you will have to pay them from what is deposited into your bank account. The email will tell you what that date was.
For help with Alberta system issues call 1.780.427.5318
For help with the Alberta application call us (403.320.3372) OR call Alberta Student Aid at 1.855.606.2096
Although we’ve broken down some of the process above, it is always a good idea to read through the information on the government website. Consider the following sites:
- Watch a video primer on the student loan process (5 mins, prepared by Lethbridge College)
- Student Financial Assistance
- This is the first line for information on federal student loans. You’ll find everything from eligibility requirements to calculators that can help you determine whether you’ll be likely to receive a loan.
- Student Aid Alberta (or the equivalent website from your province of residence)
- This is the key to Alberta’s student loan program. If you are an Alberta student, you’ll want to spend some time getting used to this site as you’ll be using it to actively manage your loan.
Paying your tuition with a student loan
At Lethbridge College, when we confirm that you are registered full-time we also request your tuition and fees be paid to us directly from your loan. Then we code your account so you don’t have to worry about the tuition payment deadline unless your loan is not sufficient to cover your fees. Don’t expect that we will receive your loan money before the deadline. Be sure to read your College email for updates.
The portion of your loan that we request only covers your tuition and fees. You are still responsible for additional costs, such as:
What happens if I fall below full-time status?
Dropping below the nine credit per regular term requirement will cause your loan to be cancelled.Your provincial student aid office and the federal government’s student aid office will be notified and any further funding will be stopped.
Any applicable refunds will be returned to the student loan lender to reduce your outstanding principle.
If you don’t reapply for a loan or register as a full-time student within six months, you will enter repayment. Your repayment period will begin six months after your date of withdrawal from full-time studies though federal loans begin to accrue interest immediately.
If you have received grant funding, the lender will contact you about your options. The lender will likely reassess a pro-rated portion of your grant as loans when you enter into repayment.
Part-time study funding
If you are taking fewer than nine credits per term, you may be eligible for a part-time bursary of $600 or a part-time Canada student loan. You may be considered for slightly more depending on the reasons for part-time study and if your need is determined to be very high.
Application forms are available as PDFs from Student Aid Alberta and require authorization from our Financial Aid office. When we have authorized your application, we will courier it to Edmonton at no charge. These applications may take up to six weeks to be processed, so plan ahead and be sure to budget accordingly.
Getting ready for the start of school
Servicing debt while in school will only cause unnecessary stress. We highly recommend paying off all debts, if possible, prior to starting your educational journey to reduce your amount of stress. You want your focus to be on your academic success, not on paying off debt.
If you haven’t already, create a budget. Budgeting helps you make smart decisions to meet your needs for the school year and the month afterward. Once you have a budget, you’ll be able to decide where you can reduce your spending or if you need to have a part-time job while in school.
Start your budget with your program costs. Program costs are available on all individual program pages. Or you can work through your budget with our budget wizard, which automatically inputs your program costs for you.
If you are concerned about budgeting around your loan, please stop by the Student Awards and Financial Aid office or send us an email; we’d be happy to assist you. We have extensive experience and can provide advice and advocacy.