Do I qualify for student loans in Canada?

08 August 2023 by National Bank
Photo of a student sitting down for an article about student loans in Canada

Tuition, rent, groceries, transportation, cell phone, Internet, and electricity – it can be tricky to manage all these expenses and still stay focused on your studies. Fortunately, there are many student financial assistance resources, including student loans, to help you make it through.

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Student Financial Assistance (SFA)

In Canada, the different levels of government offer student financial assistance (SFA) with interest rates that are generally lower than those offered by other types of financing. Not only that, but they also take care of repaying the interest while you’re in school as well.

And there’s more good news: You can wait up to six months after graduating before you start repaying the principal and interest on your loan. What’s more, the interest you pay is tax-deductible throughout the loan repayment period.

In some cases, it’s even possible to benefit from certain flexible options, such as 15% debt forgiveness or deferred repayment.

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Pro tip
Apply for financial assistance at least six months before the start of your studies to ensure you meet the eligibility criteria.

In Quebec

Student financial assistance (external link) is provided through two main programs:

  • The first, the Loans and Bursaries for Full-time Studies program enables you to pursue post-secondary studies or take vocational training (also commonly known as a DEP in French or “diplôme d’études professionnelles”). However, as the program’s name indicates, you must be a full-time student to qualify.
  • Are you a part-time student? If so, the Part-Time Education Loan program may be right for you. This type of loan is granted per study semester and can cover your tuition fees in addition to childcare costs if needed.
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Pro tip
Use the Quebec government’s student financial assistance assessment simulator (external link) to find out how much you could qualify for.  
And if you don’t want to miss an important date, check out this link from the Quebec government:
→ File processing dates and deadlines to meet

In the rest of Canada

Perhaps the most popular form of financial assistance is the Canada Student Financial Assistance Program (external link). It offers full- and part-time study grants and loans to Canadian students pursuing post-secondary education. 

To access this program, you must apply in your province or territory. Visit this Canadian government page to learn more about the application process.

You can get more information on the various financial assistance options available to you through the Canadian government website here:
Student aid

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Good to know
You may be able to obtain a non-refundable tax credit for the interest you pay on your student loans from the federal and provincial governments. To claim this credit, include the proof of interest payment that your financial institution sends you each year with your income tax return.

Speaking of taxes, did you know that it’s essential to file your income tax return every year? Students with little or no income must also file an income tax return with both levels of government. By doing so, you’ll be able to claim the federal GST credit and the Quebec solidarity tax credit. 

Scholarships and bursaries

In addition to government financial assistance for studies, there are many scholarships and bursaries that, unlike loans, don’t have to be repaid. 

Some are specific to a particular field of study, such as the Excellence scholarships for students in education programs (external link) or the Bourses pour les internats en psychologie (external link, in French only) for psychology interns. Others, such as scholarships for excellence, are awarded directly by educational institutions. 

Check with the college or university you’d like to attend to find out which ones might apply to you. Here are a few possibilities to get you started.

At the college level

Other awards and scholarships are open to students from all over the province. Here are two you should know about:

  • Offered in partnership with 25 Canadian universities, the Loran Award (external link) provides recipients with up to $100,000 over four years.
  • Is your college far from where you live? Parcours pour la mobilité étudiante scholarships (external link) give you up to $7,500 for the duration of your program (two to three years) to help cover expenses related to studying further away. 

At the university level

In addition to scholarships for excellence, you may be eligible for other types of scholarships, including the following two:

  • If you’re doing research at a Quebec educational institution, consider applying for a grant from the Fonds de recherche du Québec (external link).
  • Are you a graduate student? Then the Mackenzie King Scholarships, worth $8,500, might be for you. 

At the college and university levels 

Other bursaries and scholarships are aimed at specific groups. 

For international students in Canada

Have you chosen to study in Canada? You are certainly eligible for some of the scholarships and programs listed above.  

You can also access financial assistance resources specifically for international students (external link). These include the Quebec government’s merit scholarships for international students. Several other financial assistance resources are available too. 

To help you in your search, the international scholarships for non-Canadians page on EduCanada’s site lists many scholarship opportunities. Use the search tool to view scholarships offered by the Canadian government, foreign governments, non-governmental organizations, and international organizations.

For those pursuing postgraduate studies, there are several scholarship programs available:

Finally, you may be able to receive financial assistance for your thesis or postdoctoral studies in Canada from the International Council for Canadian Studies (external link).

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Student line of credit 

If you don’t qualify for any government assistance or scholarships and bursaries, or if the amounts you receive are simply insufficient, consider turning to financial institutions. They offer student lines of credit at lower interest rates than other types of lines. 

Depending on your program, you may even only have to repay the monthly interest while you study. You can then repay the loan once you complete your full-time studies.

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Good to know
If you’re heading back to school after time in the workforce, you may have contributed to an RRSP. If so, you may be able to withdraw money from your RRSP to finance your return to school.

There are many financial challenges to face during your studies, and the best way to tackle them is by drawing up a monthly budget. This will give you an accurate picture of your various expenses, especially those related to housing and groceries.

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Whether you're working, studying or taking a year off, NOW pay no monthly fees if you're 18 to 24