HALIFAX â€“ Nova Scotia graduates can now apply to have government pay the interest on their provincial student loans, saving them money as they start their careers.
A link to the online application can be found at http://novascotia.ca .
"Eliminating the interest on provincial loans was our commitment from day one, and we're keeping our promise to students," said Labour and Advanced Education Minister Kelly Regan.
The average Nova Scotia student loan is about $5,600. Eliminating the interest would save about $800 over the lifetime of the loan.
To qualify, a borrower must:
- be a resident of Nova Scotia
- have graduated from an approved, designated post-secondary school
- have a Nova Scotia government-sponsored direct-lend loan
The program applies to qualifying borrowers who entered repayment on or after Nov. 1, 2007. Eligible borrowers won't be reimbursed for interest paid since 2007, but they will not have to pay interest from now on. This program does not apply to federal government loans.
Government invested $14.4 million in the program in the 2013-14 budget, and will invest $1.6 million annually.
"We know students struggle with the cost of their education," said Regan. "We're contacting every individual borrower about this program, and we'll increase our efforts to ensure students know about all programs available to help them pay for their education and find work."
Government funds a debt-cap program, under which qualifying Nova Scotia borrowers could have their provincial student loan completely forgiven. This could save more than $14,500 for some students.
Innovation and research scholarships for graduate students and more career-related work placements were recently announced and, later this spring, details of a new Graduate to Opportunity program will be released.
Government will soon launch a new website and portal to make it easier for students to learn about, and apply for, assistance programs.
Regan said she will also soon consult with students and others on the future of post-secondary education. A discussion paper will lay out the pressures universities and students are facing, including affordability, and invite people to think about the role universities play in Nova Scotia's future.
"Maintaining affordable, high-quality post-secondary education is critical for our young people and the future of our province," Regan said. "We want Nova Scotians to help us shape that future so our young people get the right education and training to find good jobs here at home."