Pre-vet student Carly Montgomery works on homework in the Red Deer College library Thursday.

Pre-vet student Carly Montgomery works on homework in the Red Deer College library Thursday.

Students welcome changes to student loan program

Students will find it easier to get loans and pay them for the fall 2012 semester after changes to student finance come into effect, the province announced this week.

Students will find it easier to get loans and pay them for the fall 2012 semester after changes to student finance come into effect, the province announced this week.

Advanced Education and Technology Minister Greg Weadick said that changes to the program, which come in effect on Aug. 1, will include a flat-rate contribution of $1,500 per year for each student.

Claiming RRSPs for part-time earnings and stating parental income on applications will also no longer be required.

“We have streamlined the process and taken away the irritants around those things,” Weadick said on Wednesday.

While this is a step in the right direction, RDC Student Association president Derrick Callan said the changes won’t help students graduating this spring.

He also says the $1,500 flat-rate contribution — savings required by students — could be unrealistic.

“Students need to pay part of their education and so they are supposed to now save $1,500 before going to college. I’m not sure this is feasible to expect,” he said, adding that students used to be required to save $720 between periods of study.

“I like that they took out putting your parents on an application,” first-year RDC kinesiology student Aaron Lafferty said on Thursday.

“Even if your parents have money, it doesn’t mean they are going to help you.”

More changes to the student finance program include the development of a new completion remission program, which will provide $1,000 to $2,000 to students upon graduation. Students in specialized fields who choose to work in Alberta will also receive $1,000 at the end of three years.

In addition, interest collected on a loan during a six-month grace period has been waived and full-time students who move to part-time studies will also find things easier as they won’t have to start paying their loans until they graduate.

“That is really good,” Carly Montgomery, a second-year RDC pre-veterinarian student also said on Thursday.

“Some students can’t handle full-time classes and get poor grades because they think they will have to start paying their loan back if they switch to part-time studies,” she said.

About 27 per cent, approximately 55,000 post-secondary students in Alberta, require loans, according to the minister.

jjones@bprda.wpengine.com