After six months of deferred payments, Albertans with government student loans are now on the hook to pay up.
Despite repayments going back to normal, the reality for many graduates is they still can’t afford it.
In September, University of Alberta graduate David Potter was sent an email he wasn’t ready to receive.
“When I saw the email originally, I was really stressed and I started panicking immediately,” Potter said.
Then he received a reminder from the provincial and federal governments that his student loan payments will soon restart. Both levels of government offered a six-month suspension of payments due to COVID-19. Those deferrals ended Sept. 30 and regular payments resumed in October.
“My loans are above $20,000. I think they’re around $30,000 adding them together… I thought that was a lot and I know someone with $100,000 in debt, and that’s even more stressful,” Potter said.
Potter graduated last December with a degree in education and has not been able to find work in his field or a steady income.
“It’s harder for students — there’s no doubt. Student loans are meant to cover tuition, supplies and help you cover the cost of living but they don’t cover anything else,” Credit Counselling Society financial educator Mark Kalinowski said.
Kalinowski said it’s especially important for graduates struggling to repay their loans to find alternate options like repayment assistance plans.
“If we do not make the payments, that does really hurt our credit, and beyond that, when we miss too many payments, it’s not the student loan people who come to seek the money — it’s often the Canada Revenue Agency,” Kalinowski said.
U of A Students’ Union vice-president Rowan Ley said while getting a student loan is often a necessity, many students are worried about carrying one during a pandemic.
“Even if you’re not graduated and you don’t have to pay your student loan yet, you still need to figure out how to pay tuition, and this year’s tuition at most Alberta post-secondaries is going up by seven per cent,” Ley said.
As for Potter, he has applied for the repayment assistance plan and is waiting for approval in hopes of getting some financial relief.
“I don’t think it’s fair but I guess you got to keep the economy going,” Potter said.