Following the tabling of the 2020 Spring Report of the Auditor General of Canada, the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, issued the following statement:
“Providing students with the financial support they need to access high quality post-secondary education is a priority for our government. Each year, the federal government’s student financial assistance programs support hundreds of thousands of Canada’s young people – both through non-repayable grants and repayable loans. These are investments in our future; when all of Canada’s young people can get ahead, we build stronger communities.
Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) welcomes the Auditor General’s Spring report. The observations and recommendations align well with work already underway to strengthen the Canada Student Grants and Loans system while making post-secondary education more affordable and accessible to all Canadians. To do just that, since 2015, our government has tripled student grants, lowered interest rates on Canada Student Loans and enhanced the Repayment Assistance Plan so that no student has to repay their student loans until they are making at least $25,000 per year.
We are committed to continuing to strengthen student financial assistance, and we have been taking steps to address the five recommendations contained in the Auditor General’s report – all of which the department agrees with. This report and its findings will further help to ensure our programs provide students with the support they need through robust systems and processes that all Canadians expect.
ESDC is working with the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada to improve financial literacy tools to ensure that student loan borrowers understand their repayment options and financial obligations, including by launching the virtual repayment counsellor on the National Student Loans Service Centre (NSLSC) web portal in November 2019.
In addition, ESDC is working with provincial and territorial partners and the Canada Revenue Agency to improve eligibility verification for the Repayment Assistance Plan. As part of ongoing program enhancements, ESDC is also developing a process to report loans in default to credit bureaus. Similarly, CRA is continuing its work to develop and implement strong collection strategies.
Going forward, we will continue to evaluate the impacts of the Canada Education Savings Program and Canada Student Loans Program so that we can take appropriate steps to ensure they are meeting the needs of all students and families – particularly those with lower incomes – and effectively reducing financial barriers to post-secondary education.
At the same time, we remain focused on addressing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on students. The Government has introduced a number of measures to address the immediate financial needs of students during this difficult time.
To support student and apprentice loan borrowers, the Government has temporarily paused the repayment of Canada Student Loans and apprentice loans for the period of March 30 – September 30, 2020. These measures will provide relief to nearly 1 million CSLP borrowers in repayment.
In addition, for the 2020-2021 academic year, Canada Student Grant amounts will be doubled, and the cap on Canada Student Loans will be increased. Furthermore, in recognition that many students and families will struggle to save for this school year, no contribution will be expected from students or their spouses in determining the amount of financial aid they can receive.
Our government has been clear: we will always have students’ backs, and we will continue our work to build strong, robust and resilient student financial assistance programs – both now and into the future.
– 30 –