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 Fox Mountain Trail Network will undergo a significant machine- and hand-built upgrade thanks to a $253,000 grant from the province’s Rural Economic Recovery program. (Scott Horley photo)
Major Fox Mountain bike trail upgrade project slated to begin this May

A machine-built downhill trail, along with an improved uphill route, are part of the project

Four projects in Williams Lake have received Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program funding. (City of Williams Lake photo)
$1.35 million CERIP funds going to projects in Williams Lake

Mayor Walt Cobb thanked the province for its investment in the community

100 Mile RCMP are looking for Haileigh Archie, 18, who was reported missing from her home near Lone Butte. (Photo submitted)
100 Mile RCMP looking for missing teen Haileigh Archie

Archie was reported missing from her home in Lone Butte area on March 4.

City of Williams Lake considering using remainder of COVID Safe Restart Grant to make up for unpaid taxes. (City of Williams Lake photo)
Williams Lake weighs allocating rest of COVID safe restart grant in capital programs

The $546,205 left of the $2.6 million could make up for $746,874 in outstanding taxes

Chief Joe Alphonse
OP-ED: Williams Lake municipal, regional councils lack awareness on historical trauma

Systemic racism isn’t always obvious to those that are not experiencing it

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

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

President of the BC Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) Teri Mooring is calling for teachers to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by summer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Why it’s ‘urgent’ B.C. teachers get vaccinated from COVID-19 before summer

President Teri Mooring says not enough is being done to prevent virus transmission in schools

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2014, file photo, endangered orcas from the J pod swim in Puget Sound west of Seattle, as seen from a federal research vessel that has been tracking the whales. A new study from federal researchers provides the most detailed look yet at what the Pacific Northwest's endangered orcas eat. Scientists with the NOAA Fisheries Northwest Fisheries Science Center spent years collecting fecal samples from the whales as well as scales from the fish they devoured. They say their data reaffirm the central importance of Chinook salmon to the whales. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Study reinforces importance of Chinook to Pacific Northwest orcas

Data confirms how central the big salmon are to the orca’s diet year-round

Shiromali Krishnaraj arrives from India and receives a mandatory COVID-19 test at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. B.C.’s approved rapid tests also use a nasal swab, with a machine to scan for COVID-19 antibodies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C.’s rapid COVID-19 tests have produced only two positive results

Tests deployed for exposures in schools, outbreaks in care homes, jails

BC Emergency Health Services confirmed that a call was received just before 10 a.m. Ground paramedics, as well as an air ambulance, are on the way to the area. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
BREAKING: Helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

The Nanaimo bar display at the Nanaimo Museum. (City of Nanaimo Instagram)
City of Nanaimo points to correct recipe after New York Times botches batch of bars

City addresses ‘controversy’ around dessert square’s layers

A man holds a picture of Chantel Moore during a healing gathering at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria on June 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. First Nation demands transparency in probe into second fatal RCMP shooting

‘Police have killed more Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation members than COVID’

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Most Read