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Midsummer funding cuts could cost students money

Six or seven weeks from the start of the fall semester, thousands of Canadian students are busy earning next year’s tuition. Few realize that the federal government is about to shut down a couple of their key supports.

Financial writer Jeannine Mitchell is trying to get the word out that students and grads have just a week to get interest relief for their student loans, and to apply for debt reduction.

These programs will be replaced by a different federal program with more gradual benefits, says Mitchell. She stressed that the changes will affect only Canada Student Loans, not provincial loans.

Mitchell has been running Debt 101 since 1999. The site offers information and resources to help keep students and grads keep their loans from running out of control. It now operates as a nonprofit, with recent graduates as volunteers.

In an interview with The Tyee, Mitchell said:

“When I was a student in the 1970s, loans were easy and the rules were simple.

“When I went back to school in the 1990s, the rules were really complicated and everyone was stressed about the debts they’d face after graduating. So, being a financial writer, I created the site as a service.

“Then I learned that student loans in Canada were more complicated that any financial topic I knew of – far tougher than the global currency swaps and flow-through tax shelters I cover in finance magazines.”

Mitchell said that rules for Canada’s student loan system vary from province to province, and the federal government alone has changed loan regimes (and rules) “three times in the last 15 years.”

“On top of that, it’s often hard to get the real rules, even using Access to Information.”

Mitchell said that when she receives a promised copy of the latest rules from Ottawa, it will go on the Debt 101 website.

In the meantime, she warns students and grads that if they don’t act by July 31, they will lose their last chance to freeze their payments for a final six months under the Canada Student Loans Interest Relief program.

The same deadline applies for those who may qualify for the Debt Reduction program.

According to the Canadian Federation of Students debt clock, the amount owing on Canada Student Loans is well over $13 billion and growing rapidly.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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