The University of Ottawa campus is shown in Ottawa, Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Throngs of former students have been unable to reach Canada’s loans centre, which is working through a backlog of more than 30,000 applications for repayment assistance. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

The University of Ottawa campus is shown in Ottawa, Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Throngs of former students have been unable to reach Canada’s loans centre, which is working through a backlog of more than 30,000 applications for repayment assistance. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

National Student Loan Service Centre plagued by delays as requests for help soar

Current and former students said their issues with the service centre go beyond long wait times

Throngs of former students have been unable to reach Canada’s loans centre, which is working through a backlog of more than 30,000 applications for repayment assistance.

The phone lines for the National Student Loans Service Centre have been clogged since a pandemic-induced moratorium on student loan collections lifted at the end of September, the agency said, pointing to a message on its website warning about long wait times and dropped calls.

“We’re currently experiencing unprecedented call volumes and are receiving a higher than usual volume of (repayment assistance plan) applications,” said spokeswoman Isabelle Maheu.

The agency said it saw 169,000 RAP applications between Oct. 1 — when loan payments resumed — and late November. Of those, 30,600 had yet to be processed.

The plan protects borrowers from having to repay their Canada Student Loan until they are earning at least $25,000 per year, and caps payments for those over the threshold.

But current and former students said their issues with the service centre go beyond long wait times.

Jaylen Bastos, a master’s student at the University of British Columbia, has been trying in vain to reach someone at the centre after receiving an email in mid-October about payments resuming.

Bastos, who uses the gender-neutral pronouns they and them, said they called every week, but could never get through.

And throughout November, they said, calls resulted in a message saying the phones were overloaded.

But even so, on Dec. 1, the service automatically withdrew $400 from their account.

“They just took money out of my account on the same day that I had to pay rent, and I was not expecting it to happen. So I was like, ‘Oh, okay, now I just have to come up with $400 extra during this pandemic, which is questionable for income for everyone,” they said.

Bastos tried calling their bank to see if it could do anything about it, but no luck, they said.

“It’s super frustrating, because there’s no options, right? There’s only one number to call, they don’t accept email, there’s no other way to access this service or get in contact with anyone,” they said.

For the foreseeable future, Bastos said, they’ll keep calling the centre in an effort to get through — and take screenshots after each failed attempt to show they did their due diligence.

The service centre said it’s still experiencing a high volume of calls, but that call centre capacity has increased, so students are able to get through again — though that hasn’t been Bastos’ experience.

The agency spokeswoman also said calls are higher in part because autumn is when new graduates are expected to start repaying their loans.

There are also more calls because of enhanced security protocols introduced after a “cyber incident” that affected a number of government departments, Maheu said.

“Clients that require assistance to access their online account due to increased security measures are a significant portion of the borrowers calling the NSLSC,” she said.

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press

CoronavirusStudents

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Columbia Basin Trust has announced grants for biodiversity initiatives. Photo: Submitted
Columbia Basin Trust announces ecosystem protection grants

Three projects are sharing a $1.35-million grant

(file photo)
Nomination packages available for Castlegar byelection

The mayor’s seat and one council seat will be on the ballot

Remi Drolet
Rossland skier competes at World Nordic ski championship

Remi Drolet was selected to Team Canada and will race at the 2021 FIS World Nordic Ski Championships

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
MY COVID STORY: From doctor to patient

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

A rainbow shining on Kelowna General Hospital on May 12, 2020 International Nurses Day. (Steve Wensley - Prime Light Media)
New COVID cases trending down in Interior Health

24 new cases reported Thursday, Feb. 25, death at Kelowna General Hospital

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Site C will go ahead, one year later and $5.3 billion more, the NDP announced Feb 26. (BC Hydro image)
B.C. NDP announces Site C will go ahead with new $16B budget

Reviews recommend more oversight, beefed up foundation stability work

The BC Prosecution Service announced last year that it was appointing lawyer Marilyn Sandford as a special prosecutor to review the case, following media inquiries about disclosure issues linked to a pathologist involved in the matter. (Black Press Media files)
Possible miscarriage of justice in B.C. woman’s conviction in toddler drowning: prosecutor

Tammy Bouvette was originally charged with second-degree murder but pleaded guilty in 2013 to the lesser charge

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A kid in elementary school wearing a face mask amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Metro Creative)
Union asks why an elementary school mask rule wouldn’t work in B.C. if it does elsewhere

B.C. education minister announced expansion of mask-wearing rules in middle, high school but not elementary students

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

The country joins more than a dozen others in giving the shot the green light

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Carolyn Howe, a kindergarten teacher and vice president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association, says educators are feeling the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic and the influx of pressure that comes with it. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Stress leave, tears and insomnia: B.C. teachers feel the strain of COVID-19

Teachers still adjusting to mask and cleaning rules, pressures from outside and within

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

Most Read