New administrator, same debt load

By Kris Kotarski

Post-secondary students across Alberta have a new name to remember this summer.

Effective July 31, 2001, the province’s agreement with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce expires and the provincial government takes over responsibility for financing all Alberta Student Loans. The province has contracted EDULINX Canada Corporation to administer the loans.

"We’re expecting to issue 40,000 student loans next year," said Alberta Learning Communications spokesman Jerry Bellikka. "We’ve allocated approximately $100 million which is about on par with what we had last year [$95 million]."

"Alberta already has one of the better loan systems among the provinces," said Council of Alberta University Students Chair and University of Calgary Students’ Union Vice-president External Oliver Bladek. "[And now] students will be able to get their loans processed faster."

With EDULINX as the new provider, students can have their loans processed at Canada Post outlets rather than by the CIBC. Bladek explained that students can expect application processing time to decrease from the current four-to-six weeks to approximately two days as a result.

Other than decreased processing times, Bladek and Bellikka agree that Alberta students won’t notice any major changes in loan administration. However, as EDULINX also administers federal student loans and with the Alberta government taking more control in place of CIBC, Bladek hopes the change will open the door to possible harmonization of provincial and federal student loans.

"Our goal is one student–one loan," he said. "That would make the whole process a lot more efficient."

But while CAUS and Alberta students look forward to the possibility of harmonization, Alberta Minister of Learning Dr. Lyle Oberg called that project "longer-term" in a recent statement.

Bladek remained optimistic.

"It’s still a step in the right direction," he said.

One concern for Alberta students will be the allocation of funding to risk insurance money that will no longer go to CIBC to cover student loan defaults.

"The government of Alberta was paying eight per cent risk insurance to CIBC," said Bladek. "CAUS plans to lobby the provincial government so that the eight per cent stays within post-secondary education, even with the changeover."

Overall, the change is viewed as a positive for students.

"For now, I can’t really see any downside," said Bladek. "It’s a move away from the bank and banks are in business to make money. Student loans are a social service and students will still be able to get their student loans."

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