Need easier student loan navigation

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

October 31, 2007 Ed Cartoon

Canadian student loan borrowers are forced to file Access to Information requests to get details on their own loans.

Since 2004, numerous borrowers have filed access requests with Human Resources and Social Development Canada. This speaks volumes about the bureaucratic red tape that students must navigate to access information on their student loans.

While young people in general tend to have loan trouble â€" whether through governmental or private streams â€" it seems the Canadian Government is specifically taking advantage of a vulnerable sector of borrowers. Most students do not work and have not gathered much acumen in the business world.

Governments and politicians do not have the most accountable reputation in the first place; by failing to provide important loan information it certainly does not strengthen Canadians’ faith in their policy makers.

Furthermore, when students default on a loan, the government can raise interest rates. Students are naturally a high-risk group; business sense would demand a higher interest rate to provide incentive for repayment.

However, these are not middle-aged people buying houses and automobiles â€" these are Canadian students struggling to pay tuition. If our nation ranks postsecondary education as a key priority, the government should have some compassion in this regard.

At the very least, requiring a loan breakdown, a timeline or suggestions how to pay, is not asking much from administrators. Many students in Canada do not have the collateral or credit rating to take out a bank loan so they deserve a tangible plan to pay off the government in the years after school.

Ironically, The Gazette encountered many bureaucratic obstacles to gathering information for this very topic. The government’s multitude of requests for media questions meant that we could not get a comment from the Harper government on student loans.

This is further evidence of the fact Canadians need answers from the government and are simply not being satiated. Admittedly, Canadians should feel more empathy for a student’s plight than a journalist’s.

Regardless, when it comes to money, the bottom line is information. A borrower must have ready access to their account information so they are aware of their payment progress and whether or not they have been re-assessed.

Considering students are taking the loans from the government, the onus should be on that body to provide all the details with fewer bureaucratic hurdles.

The inconvenience surrounding student loan details is indicative of the unnecessary, multi-faceted government bureaucracy in Canada.

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