Sudbury·Audio

Laurentian grads say federal student loan payment suspension didn't go far enough to help with COVID-19

The federal government has resumed student loan repayments, after a six-month grace period to help about one million people in debt to manage with the pressures of COVID-19. 

'Basically even if you are able to afford the payments, you're kind of sabotaging yourself financially'

Canadian student loan repayment was paused in March to help grads deal with the realities of COVID-19. Now, they've resumed. (epridnia - stock.adobe.com)

The federal government has resumed student loan repayments, after a six-month grace period to help about one million people in debt to manage with the pressures of COVID-19. 

Ottawa began its repayment suspension back in March when the pandemic first took hold. The grace period officially ended on Sept. 30. 

With a shaky job market because of COVID-19, some grads including those from Sudbury are saying paying off student loans will be difficult. 

Ra'anaa Brown recently graduated from the McEwen School of Architecture at Laurentian University. She said she's currently in about $60,000 worth of student debt and anticipates that her monthly loan payment will be around $600.

Ra'anaa Brown says her debt sometimes has her considering returning to school just so she doesn't have to worry about the debt in the immediate future. (Casey Stranges CBC)

'Limited opportunity'

"It makes me nervous, because there's not a lot of job security right now," she said. 

Brown says while she was able to find a job during COVID-19, it's contract work, which has her concerned over how she'll be able to manage once it ends.

"There's not a lot of job security for people who had jobs prior to the pandemic, and for those of us who were students coming into the workforce now, there's limited opportunity." 

Sometimes, Brown said, she considers returning back to school just so she doesn't have to repay her debt so quickly.

Alex Gunnewiek is also a recent graduate of the architecture school, he says resuming repayment puts an added strain on grads who are already struggling because of the pandemic.

If things get worse or if there is more severe economic downturn in the future it means I could be very stuck financially.— Alex Gunnewiek, Laurentian Univeristy graduate

"I know a very large portion of my cohorts are not employed at the moment and are basically facing the end of [Canadian Emergency Response Benefit] CERB payments and are basically out of luck and living with their parents," he said. 

Gunnewiek said as of now, he has about $35,000 to repay following his post-secondary education. 

Even as "one of the luckiest people right now," who managed to snag a job in his field after only graduating in June, he said, making payments will be challenging. He said the grace period didn't go far enough in supporting grads.

'A constant state of debt'

"Now I do not have the chance to basically have everything you're supposed to have financially like my emergency funding is a two-month emergency fund instead of at least a three or four-month [emergency fund]," he said.

"Basically even if you are able to afford the payments, you're kind of sabotaging yourself financially and if things get worse or if there is more severe economic downturn in the future it means I could be very stuck financially and have to move home or something." 

Right now, he said he's arranged to pay a minimum payment of $400 per month. He said he anticipates his loan being paid off in about nine years.

Paired with job insecurity, the rising costs of housing and an ongoing pandemic he said, "It seems to be setting our generation up for ... a constant state of debt and no chance at having financial security." 

For six months, graduates across the country could breathe a sigh of relief not having to worry about repaying their student loans. Now that the freeze is over, grads are figuring out how to pay off their debt, even as the pandemic continues. We contacted two students to find out how they'll manage. 7:06

About the Author

Sam Juric

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Sam Juric is a reporter with CBC Sudbury and can be reached at samantha.juric@cbc.ca.

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