(The Canadian Press)

(The Canadian Press)

Here’s what to do as Canada Student Loan payments resume, starting today

Graduates like Cytko have a range of options, from requesting to postpone payments to tackling them on a budget

Before graduating with a double master’s in information and museum studies from the University of Toronto in June, Elizabeth Cytko was gearing up to apply to jobs at libraries and institutions across the country.

The plan was to launch her career and start working down her debts.

“My wild daydream was to have them paid off in three years,” Cytko said.

“I assumed I would have had full-time work by now, but that hasn’t quite happened with COVID-19.”

The graduate is living at home in Edmonton and taking a free online course as she wrestles with how to handle her federal student loans.

“I’m just living in limbo at the moment.”

She’s not alone. Thousands of recent graduates are facing the end of the six-month freeze Ottawa imposed on repayments and interest for Canada Student Loans in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Oct. 1 is the first day monthly payments resume.

Graduates like Cytko have a range of options, from requesting to postpone payments to tackling them on a budget.

Those with an income below $25,000 per year are eligible for continued deferrals until they hit that threshold. They can apply through the Repayment Assistance Plan (RAP), which also allows borrowers to apply for a reduced payment.

“Depending on your income, you may not be required to make payments that exceed your income by 20 per cent, or any payment at all,” the program website states.

However, just because you’re able to kick the debt can down the road doesn’t mean you should.

“Attack that debt as best you can,” said Keith Emery, co-CEO of Credit Canada, a not-for-profit credit counselling service.

“If you’re getting a debt deferral, as with the RAP, that’s not a debt writeoff, that’s just putting it on pause to a later date… sort of like a giant don’t-pay-a-cent event.”

Graduates should steer away from the vicious cycle of using borrowed money — especially if it’s higher interest — to pay down other loans, while sticking to their payment due dates, Emery said.

“It is important to maintain those payments because you don’t want it to impact your credit score and credit report, which are important to build as you’re getting your financial start,” Emery noted.

Payment delinquency, including with the National Student Loans Service Centre, will eventually come across the desks of all three major credit bureaus, he added.

Young people have been among the hardest hit financially by the pandemic. Employment of Canadians aged 15 to 24 was 15.3 per cent below pre-pandemic levels, by far the largest gap among age groups, according to Statistics Canada.

More than one in three postsecondary students had a work placement cancelled or delayed as a result of the outbreak, according to an Statistics Canada survey of more than 100,000 in April.

The time-tested method of living on a budget can make for quicker debt repayment.

“If you don’t have a car, if you’re living at home… I would say kudos to you. Don’t let anybody tell you what you should be doing at this stage in life financially. All that matters is what works for you,” Emery said.

“Maybe you’re not going out to eat as much… Anything that allows you to weather this storm without taking on debt and while maintaining your student loan payments is a positive.”

The federal government tends to be more flexible with repayment plans than most private lenders, said Doug Hoyes of Hoyes Michalos, an Ontario-based debt-relief firm.

A solid sense of your own financial situation provides the key to charting a path out of student debt, he said.

“You want to take stock of where you’re at. You’re supposed to be paying $400 a month, say. Can you actually afford that?”

Hoyes recommends taking the initiative and giving the government a call.

“You’re allowed to pick up the phone and call the lender and make a plan: ‘I can’t afford to give you $400, but I can afford to give you $100 a month for the next six months.’

“You’re the boss. You want to take charge. You don’t want to hide from it,” he said. “If it’s a federal student loan, they know where you are. So hiding is not a good strategy.”

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusEducationFederal Politics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
City of Wetaskiwin COVID-19 deaths increase to five

New COVID-19 death in the City of Wetaskiwin despite decrease in active cases.

City of Red Deer has nearly doubled its active COVID-19 case count since Feb. 10 and has 75.6 per cent of the Central zone’s active cases. (File photo)
Another new high: Red Deer hits 574 active COVID-19 cases

Province reports 13 new COVID-19 deaths, 430 new cases

Maskwacis RCMP regular members, Community Tripartite Agreement (CTA) members and support staff proudly wore pink in support of Pink Shirt Day on Feb. 24, 2021. Supplied/ Maskwacis RCMP.
Maskwacis RCMP embraces Pink Shirt Day

Maskwacis RCMP engage in virtual presentations with schools on anti-bullying for Pink Shirt Day.

Minister Rick Wilson poses with Katie at the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin, both wearing her Pink Shirt Day design. Facebook/ Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin.
Be kind and wear pink for Pink Shirt Day

Katie with the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin created this year’s Pink Shirt Day design.

Black Press File Photo
Valentine’s Day shooting in Maskwacis leaves one male in hospital, one male in custody

19-year-old Francis Edward Nepoose from Maskwacis has been charged with attempted murder.

Bookings for COVID-19 vaccines for people age 75 or older start Wednesday. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Updated: Delays for seniors booking for vaccine appointments

By 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, 4,500 seniors had booked their appointments

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

Mike Ammeter (Photo by Rebecca Hadfield)
Sylvan Lake man elected chair of Canadian Canola Growers Association

Mike Ammeter is a local farmer located near the Town of Sylvan Lake

Students and staff at Gateway Christian School wore pink Wednesday in support of Pink Shirt Day, a worldwide anti-bullying initiative that was started in 2007. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Public Schools)
Students, central Alberta community celebrate Pink Shirt Day

Mayor of Sylvan Lake Sean McIntyre supports anti-bullying cause

Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Anne Kirker is expected to sentence Satnam Singh Sandhu on Friday. Red Deer Advocate file photo
Updated: Sylvan Lake man pleads guilty to manslaughter for strangling wife in 2019

Kulvinder Sandhu was strangled and died in hospital several days later

Sentencing delayed in the stabbing death of Samantha Sharpe, of Sunchild First Nation. (Red Deer Advocate file photo)
Central Alberta man not criminally responsible for killing his father in 2020: judge

Psychiatrist testified Nicholas Johnson was psychotic when he killed his father

The cover of “Hometown Asylum: A History and Memoir of Institutional Care.” (Submitted)
Ponoka-born author writes history of old mental hospital

“Hometown Asylum: A History and Memoir of Institutional Care” covers 1911 to 1971

Todd Hirsch. (Image: screenshot)
ATB vice president gives financial forecast to Ponoka chamber

Predictions for reopening of the economy and recovery outlined

Most Read