Nova Scotia graduates no longer have to pay interest on their provincial student loans, saving them money as they start their careers.
"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. "We know that every dollar counts when graduates are beginning their careers, and we hope this provides some relief to young people as they build their lives in Nova Scotia."
There are about 18,000 borrowers who could be eligible to benefit annually. That number doesn't include current students, who may also qualify in the future.
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
This program applies to qualifying borrowers who entered repayment on their provincial loans on or after Nov. 1, 2007. Eligible borrowers won't be reimbursed for interest they've paid since Nov. 1, 2007, but they will no longer pay interest going forward. This program does not apply to loans borrowed from the federal government.
"This May, I'll be the first person in my family to graduate from university, which wouldn't have been possible without student loans," said Saint Mary's University political science and economics student James Patriquin. "I'm very happy the government is removing interest from provincial student loans, because it means I won't have to worry about my debt growing after I finish school, and I'll be able to pay off my loan faster."
The average Nova Scotia student loan is about $5,600. Eliminating the interest would save about $800 over the lifetime of the loan.
"We're happy to see that the government has been listening to students and will eliminate interest on student loans," said Students Nova Scotia executive director Jonathan Williams. "This investment will give students greater peace of mind that they will not be burned by high borrowing costs after they graduate."
The Nova Scotia Student Assistance office will contact borrowers over the next few weeks to explain how they can apply. A simple, online application will be used to determine if borrowers qualify.
This is an additional step government is taking to make post-secondary education more affordable and accessible for students. The province has invested more than $123 million in student assistance over the past three years, making it easier for students to access post-secondary assistance and graduate with less debt.
"Keeping post-secondary education affordable in Nova Scotia is a priority," said Ms. Regan. "We're working to better support students and graduates -- they're the future of this province."
Government will invest $1.6 million in this program annually.