OTTAWA, January 24, 2018 – The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) is calling on the federal government to extend student loan protection under the Repayment Assistance Plan (RAP) to those on parental leave. By giving new parents a temporary break from student loan payments, CASA believes financial stresses on new parents will be eased, allowing them to focus on caring for their child in the important first stages of life.
The average age for graduating from post-secondary ranges from 22 to 24, and the standard amount of time it takes to pay off a student loan is 9.5 years, bringing most people into their thirties. Given that the average age for giving birth for the first time was 28.5 in Canada in 2011, it is clear that many people go on parental leave at some point while paying back their student loans.
Though some new parents receive parental leave pay from their work, many rely on the employment insurance (EI) parental leave benefit and others, specifically those who are self-employed or work precarious jobs, can receive nothing at all. Needless to say, many new parents experience a quick and drastic reduction in their income, while costs for food, transportation, housing and utilities remain relatively stable.
Under the Repayment Assistance Plan, post-secondary graduates are not required to make payments on their government student loans until they make $25,000 annually. While those not making anything during their parental leave might qualify, those relying on EI parental leave benefits make just 55% of their insured income up to a maximum of $51,300 annually. This pushes many individuals just above the threshold required for a break from student loan repayment.
“CASA aims to reduce barriers for those who wish to both pursue higher education and start a family, and believes no one should ever have to choose between one or the other,” explains CASA’s Board Chair, Shifrah Gadamsetti. “Given that the average age in which Canadians start families overlaps with student loan repayment timelines, we believe that extending the loan repayment assistance program to provide new parents with support is imperative. It would also play an integral role in helping women, who most often take parental leave, to obtain an education and participate in the workforce.”
CASA is proposing that the Repayment Assistance Plan create a dedicated parental leave stream that would automatically apply to those taking parental leave from their studies or work. This way, new parents would be temporarily exempted from making student loan payments and could focus on the new member of their family.
CASA will be publishing a policy paper next month on the topic of student financial aid, which will cover this and other financial barriers to post-secondary education.
Established in 1995, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) is a non-partisan, not-for-profit, national student organization composed of 22 student associations representing 255,000 post-secondary students from coast to coast. CASA advocates for a Canadian post-secondary education system that is accessible, affordable, innovative, and of the highest quality.
Lindsay Boyd, Communications and Public Relations Officer
Phone: 613-236-3457 ext. 224