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New loan repayment rules may not be enough relief

Murissa Barrington

BIZ/TECH REPORTER

Ontario post-secondary graduates will now be able to avoid repaying students loans until they make $25,000 a year.

The $5,000 increase came into effect Nov. 1 of this year, but isn’t enough for some Humber College students.

Mature student Joanne Salamat argues that loan repayment can be easier for students like herself by looking at individuals with more complicated situations.

“They don’t take into consideration your expenses or anything,” Salamat said. “Whereas a lot of students have their parents to support them, I am the sole (provider) and I get just as much” as those who enjoy family support.

The second year tourism and hospitality, event management student worked as a project manager in Vancouver before the 2008 recession. She says since making a career change and returning to school, it’s been difficult to manage debt and OSAP regulations have only added to the burden.

“Here I am trying to maintain a G.P.A. of 90 per cent, which I have, and then trying to pay my bills with what OSAP gives me, I would have to work at least 30 hours a week,” Salamat said. “Then, when they find out, they’re going to adjust my OSAP saying, ‘you’ve got too much.’”

Ignite Vice-President of Student Life Ammar Abdul-Raheem has a different perspective on the OSAP adjustment.

“I think it’s good. Since quite a few years ago I don’t think the repayment structure actually matched the minimum wage that we were getting,” Abdul-Raheem said. “What it does is it gives inspiration to us as students, it gives us trust that the government, or (the) people who are making decisions, are really there to support us.”

He said there are also a number of support services, like bursaries and free advice, offered by Ignite to help students who are feeling the financial crunch.

“We have a student lifeline, which is a 24/7 support service,” Abdul-Raheem said. “Basically you call in and on the other side, there are people there waiting that can professionally and adequately help you on your specific problem.

“So if I have a problem with my landlord or something, maybe I got into a fight with my landlord, they’re there to help me with that,” he said.

Ignite also offers the Financial Relief Program for students who run into emergency situations and urgently require funding for shelter or food, said Abdul-Raheem.

Holsee Sahid, the financial aid manager at Humber, encourages students to attend the repayment assistance webinar offered by the National Student Loan Centre to help students stay on track of payments.

“It’s to ensure students are aware of what to do if they cannot afford to make their student loan payments after they graduate,” Sahid said, adding students should visit the National Student Loans Service Centre website to register for the next session.

Sahid said students should prioritize budgeting after receiving their loan to avoid using up the entire amount. Students can also visit the financial aid advisors, she added.

“A lot of students I know have problems with budgeting,” Sahid said. “So they can come in any time to the financial aid office and meet with an advisor who will discuss their budgeting and how to budget themselves in terms of funding that they’re receiving from OSAP.”

Once students reach the $25,000 salary mark, they will begin repaying no more than 20 per cent of their monthly income under the repayment assistance program.

Josh Bueckert, communications advisor for Employment and Social Development Canada, said in the 2013 to 2014 loan year, the average Canada Student Loan balance for a full-time student was $12,480.

In meantime, Salamat hopes to have more fairness for mature full-time students like herself and remains apprehensive about how she’ll repay her debt after graduation.

“If I’m being honest, I’m afraid to think past next April,” Salamat said.

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