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Published August 23, 2023
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How to Apply for Student Loans in Canada

Here’s what you need to know to apply for a student loan in Canada.

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A student loan is a way for students to receive financial assistance from federal and provincial governments to pursue post-secondary education in Canada. Student loans can help cover the cost of tuition, textbooks and living expenses.

What is a student loan?

Student loans are a form of credit extended by the government to students who demonstrate financial need. Unlike other lending products, like credit cards or student lines of credit, student loans don’t require borrowers to make interest payments while they’re enrolled in their program.

Why apply for a student loan?

Applying for a student loan is one way full- and part-time students can access funds to pay for their educational expenses. This type of loan may offer several advantages for student borrowers over other types of lending products, including flexible repayment terms and in some cases, interest-free borrowing.

Eligibility for student loans is usually based on factors such as financial need, the length of your program and whether you have any dependents, rather than your credit score.

How to apply for student loans in Canada

Applying for a student loan at the federal level — the Canada Student Loan, provided by the Canada Student Financial Assistance Program — is a five-step process that starts with determining your eligibility. To be eligible for student loans in Canada, you have to:

  • Be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or a newcomer designated protected person based on fear of specific persecution in your country of origin.
  • Be a permanent resident of a province or territory that issues Canada Student Loans (any province or territory other than Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Quebec, which offer their own financial assistance programs).
  • Demonstrate financial need by falling under certain individual or family income requirements. The government will also consider the cost of tuition and living expenses, as well as existing or expected resources, such as parental contributions, to determine financial need.

Indigenous students, students with a disability or current and former Crown wards also may be eligible to receive additional funding. If you’re over age 22 and applying for your first Canada Student Loan, you’ll be required to pass a credit check.

You’ll need to meet specific enrolment requirements, such as:

  • Taking a course load of at least 60% (or at least 40% for students with a disability) if you’re a full-time student.
  • Enrolling in a course load of 20% to 59% if you’re a part-time student.
  • Ensuring your degree, diploma or certificate program runs for at least 12 weeks within 15 consecutive weeks and is offered by a designated post-secondary institution.

If you meet these requirements, you can apply for a Canada Student Loan online through your province or territory’s student financial assistance site. If you’re planning to attend a school in another province, you should still apply for student loans through the financial assistance site of your province or territory of permanent residence.

After you apply, your eligibility for grants and loans is assessed together, and you may qualify for a combination of the two types of funding.

The government will send you a notice of assessment that outlines whether and what kind of funding is available to you. If you qualify for funding, you will be required to complete a legally binding contract called the Master Student Financial Assistance Agreement that sets out the terms and conditions of the loan. Additionally, you will need to provide your financial institution and account information, and the government will directly deposit funds twice a year — once during each of the first and second terms. 

You must reapply every year for your Canada Student Loans. 

Student loan limits

Full-time students can receive student loans for a maximum of 340 weeks (that’s about 6.5 years). Doctoral students can receive loans for up to 400 weeks (more than seven years), and students with a disability can receive student aid for up to 520 weeks (10 years).

For the 2023-2024 academic year, the Canada Student Loan limit for full-time students is $300 per week of study.

Provincial and territorial student loans

Provinces and territories also offer loans for students pursuing post-secondary education. In some cases, these student loans are administered in conjunction with federal loans, while in others, they are considered two separate loans.

Here’s a look at how student financial aid works in the provinces and territories:

How to apply for student loans in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador

  • British Columbia (B.C.): StudentAid BC handles applications, but student loans in B.C. are offered as federal-provincial integrated loans. At repayment time, students make just one monthly payment toward their integrated loan balance.
  • Saskatchewan: The province offers an integrated federal-provincial student loans program. Students can apply for funding through the government’s Advanced Education Student Portal from the June prior to the upcoming school year until 30 days before their program end date.
  • Ontario: The Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) is a federal-provincial loan. Students apply for financial aid via OSAP, but funds are repaid to the federal National Student Loans Service Centre.
  • New Brunswick: The province offers integrated administration of federal and provincial student loans). Students can apply for New Brunswick Student Loan funding up to $200 per week of study in 2023-2024 through the government’s Student Financial Services website. The loan will be repaid alongside their Canada Student Loan in one payment.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: While the province’s eligibility criteria are slightly different than the federal requirements, students can apply for both loans at the same time. Newfoundland and Labrador offers a provincial loan up to a maximum of $100 per week of study for in-province students.

How to apply for student loans in Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island

In Manitoba, Alberta, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island (PEI), provincial student loans are provided separately from federal student aid.

  • Alberta: Students use one application process to apply for both federal and provincial student loans and grants through Alberta Student Aid. The loans are separate debts and managed through different portals — so when it comes time to repay, students need to manage two repayment schedules.
  • Manitoba: The province offers Manitoba student loans of up to $200 per week of study in addition to federal funding. Students can apply online through Manitoba Student Aid. Although one application covers both the provincial loan and the Canada Student Loan, students have to eventually repay two separate lenders — the Manitoba government and the federal government.
  • Nova Scotia: Students can apply for a provincial student loan of up to $200 per week of study for 2023-2024, in addition to the Canada Student Loan, through the government’s Student Assistance website. After graduation, students will repay their provincial and federal loans to two separate lenders.
  • PEI: Provincial student loans may offer up to $209 per week of study. Students can apply for both the federal and provincial student loan programs by filling out one application via the province’s Student Financial Services website. Repayment of provincial and federal loans is done through two separate portals and may begin at different points after graduation.

Student loans in Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Quebec

In the Yukon, students can apply for Canada Student Loans through Yukon Student Aid. However, the territory does not currently offer additional territorial student loans. 

The Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Quebec operate student financial assistance programs independent of the federal student loans program.

  • Northwest Territories: Students may qualify for grants or loans based on financial need, family size and other factors. Indigenous students and students with disabilities may qualify for additional funding. Students must reapply each year through the Student Financial Assistance website.
  • Nunavut: Financial Assistance for Nunavut Students offers grants and loans to full-time students who meet specific eligibility criteria, such as the number of years of prior schooling in the territory. Applications are submitted through the Department of Education. 
  • Quebec: Provincial grants and loans are available to full- and part-time students who meet eligibility criteria. Students can apply through the government’s financial aid website.

Pros and cons of applying for student loans


If you don’t have the funds available for post-secondary school expenses, student loans are a way to access the money you need. Student loans often have more flexible terms than other forms of credit, such as credit cards or student lines of credit, which require ongoing payment of interest on the amounts withdrawn. As of April 2023, Canada Student Loans do not accumulate interest. You have up to 174 months (14.5 years) to repay a Canada Student Loan in full.

By applying for student loans, you also may be considered for other programs, such as awards or bursaries offered by a specific school or other initiatives, like Ontario’s Student Access Guarantee. Through this program, the government alerts certain colleges and universities when students have assessed needs that are not being met by OSAP. The post-secondary institution will provide remaining expenses related to your program — such as tuition or fees — directly to you.


Unlike grants, student loans eventually have to be paid back. In Ontario, for example, repayment (called the payment trigger date) starts six months after you graduate or otherwise cease to be a full-time student. In other provinces, the payment trigger date may be as much as one year after you graduate. Repayment is usually set up on a monthly schedule.

While Canada Student Loans no longer accrue interest, some provincial student loans do, such as those from Ontario and Saskatchewan. The interest rate on these loans is based on the prime rate.

Frequently asked questions about student loans

Are Canada Student Loans interest-free?

Yes. In April 2021, the federal government suspended the accumulation of interest on Canada Student Loans for two years. On April 1, 2023, the government permanently eliminated the accumulation of interest on all Canada Student Loans. However, you’ll still need to repay any interest that accrued before these changes took effect.Some provincial student loans may still carry interest — for example, students with OSAP loans (Canada-Ontario Integrated Student Loans) don’t pay interest on their Canada Student Loan, but must pay the prime rate plus 1% on the Ontario portion of the loan.

Who is eligible for student loans in Canada?

Canadian citizens, permanent residents and protected persons, such as refugees, are eligible to apply for federal student loans in Canada. Students may also apply for provincial or territorial student loans in their province or territory of permanent residence.

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