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

This concept artwork from July 2020 shows the inland port planned for the former Skeena Cellulose mill site in Terrace. (Image courtesy Hatha Callis, Progressive Ventures Group)
Terrace city council approves inland port OCP amendments

Project still requires zoning bylaw, development permit to continue

This copper frog pendant was made by Jamika Aksidan, a young Nisga’a artist who was recently recognized with an award for her work. (Photo courtesy Nisga’a Museum)
Nisga’a youth artist wins award

Award includes $500, exhibition in Nisga’a Museum

A BC Hydro outage is affecting nearly 4000 customers in Kitimat. The cause of the outage is under investigation. (Screenshot/BC Hydro Outage Map)
Cable fault responsible for Kitimat power outage, BC Hydro says

At its peak, the BC Hydro power outage affected near 4,000 customers

Graph showing the 2020 passenger totals at the Northwest Regional Airport in Terrace. (Submitted/Northwest Regional Airport)
New year brings an end to a turbulent 2020 at Northwest Regional Airport

Passenger totals half of what they were in 2019

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Black Press media file
Port McNeill driver tells police he thought the pandemic meant no breathalyzers

Suspect facing criminal charges after breathalyzer readings in excess of 3.5 times the legal limit

Forestry companies in B.C. agree to abide by the cedar protocols based on traditional laws of the First Nation members of the Nanwakolas Council. (Photo courtesy, Nanwakolas Council)
Landmark deal sees B.C. forest firms treat big cedars like a First Nation would

Western Forest Products, Interfor among companies to adapt declaration drafted by Nanwakolas Council

Most Read