When I was applying to university six years ago, I knew student loans were going to be part of that process. There was no question that I’d accumulate debt over the next four years. But I was okay with it. Getting my bachelor’s degree was worth the $40,000 price tag.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say I’m grateful Canada Student Loans exists and honestly don’t mind that I have student loans. But there’s a heck of a lot about the organization that needs improvement.
While the application process is lengthy and complicated, the organization doesn’t get truly complicated until you enter repayment. And if you’re a graduate like me — who grew up in B.C., went to university out of province and then did continuing education in a third province — things get really complicated.
Unlike provinces like Ontario, where the provincial and federal components of a student’s loan are combined, Student Aid B.C.’s website explains, “Though there is a single application process for both types of loans, each government addresses repayment issues and inquiries separately.”
That simple little clause is where my headaches really began. That means little things like monthly payments and changing my address have to go through two different organizations. Not the end of the world, I suppose. But to further complicate things, I decided to ride out the recession by taking one class last fall to break up my time spent watching TV. I applied for a part-time loan, which I’m now paying off in a separate monthly payment, even though it was issued from the same organization I already carry one loan with.
I now make monthly payments on a $30,000 federal loan, a $1,000 federal part-time loan and a $4,000 provincial loan. And there’s nothing Canada Student Loans can do to make my life easier. While low interest rates and flexible repayment options are certainly helpful, ease of repayment is higher on my list of ways the government could help new graduates.
By making it impossible for graduates to consolidate their loans, or at the very least the administration of their loans, more graduates like my fiancé may opt to get out of Canada Student Loans all together. He re-financed his loan with CIBC when interest rates bottomed out during the recession. His payments are higher, he pays slightly more interest and has little flexibility. But he’ll be done repayment five years earlier and only has to do deal with one customer service professional when he needs assistance.
Canada Student Loans should be paying attention to people like him. Bailing for the competition is not good business, especially when the competition could get graduates into sticky situations because the flexibility factor is almost gone.
But as it is, Canada Student Loans is nothing but frustration for me. It seems like I’m on the phone every other week with various people about my split-personality loan. The federal government should help graduates to consolidate their many loans into one monthly payment to Canada Student Loans, allowing them to speak to only one person when they have questions or problems.
In my case, we’re only talking about $5,000, but much more in peace of mind. That’s a post-secondary improvement announcement I could get behind.