Getting Help: accessing loan repayment aid…

Q. How long does it take to get help from government student loan repayment programs?

A. Ask your lender for a time estimate, and then leave yourself extra time! Student loans often seem to operate on Murphy's Law: If anything can go wrong, it will…

It can take several weeks to process an Interest Relief application, though some lenders do this faster, especially if you're just renewing your application.

Applications for more complex programs, such as Debt Reduction or Loan Remission, can take several times that long.

Remember, you're dealing with multiple layers of management. Typically, your lender's loan centre processes your application before sending it to the government involved, where it gets further processing. The government then send the results to your lender, which processes that and later tells you the results.

Q. Is there any way to speed things up?

You can slash a week or three off your waiting time by using tips in: Six Ways to Speed Your Student Loan Aid.

Even using these tips, application for more complex programs could drag on for a month or so, but you should do what you can to cut the time in case something has to be sent back and corrected. 

Q. What if I can't wait that long?

A. You'll need a Plan B. You can't get government aid if your student loans are not in good standing. In theory that means you can't fall behind on a payment, even if you don't have any money left.

In practice, your lender may hold off on taking your payment for a few weeks – if you call ahead of time to ask. (It definitely won't happen if you don't take charge yourself by calling ahead.) The clerk at your lender's student loan centre should be able to see in your file that your application is still being processed. If the clerk can't help you, ask for the supervisor.

If your lender won't co-operate, you must find the money for that payment. Borrow elsewhere or let a less critical bill go unpaid. This is the bottom line: You must stay eligible for aid. For more options on this, see this Debt 101 article:

When You Can't Pay