Frequently Asked Questions
If I’m living away from home, am I considered dependent or independent for government student aid purposes?
Can I get a student loan to take upgrading to get my BC Adult Graduation Diploma or prerequisites for post-secondary study?
How do I inform previous lenders that I am a full-time student, so that I am not required to make loan payments or have interest accruing on my past loans?
Financial Consumer Agency of Canada and the CanLearn websites. Here, you will find information for before and while you are in school on the following:
- Saving and budgeting your money
- Working part-time
- Repaying loans and debt free solutions
1. Live at home while in school - Going away for school is a great experience, yes, however, it is also a great cost. If you are able, stay at home as long as possible. If it is not, consider living with roommates, sharing accommodations, or living in residence rather than living on your own.
2. Apply for grants, bursaries, and scholarships – These are resources to ‘free’ - money or This is “free” money that does not need to be paid back, so it is worth your while to research and apply for as many as possible. Visit the following resources for help finding grant, bursaries, and scholarships:
3. Manage your student loan and other borrowing carefully–If you are assessed for a greater loan amount than you need, request only the amount that is needed. Avoid increasing your debt by spending more than you need to, simply because the funds are available to you. Be sure to stay on track with your budget to make sure that you have enough funds to get you through to the end of the term.
4. Be wary of using credit – Credit cards and other sources of credit are very expensive ways to borrow money if you aren’t diligent in paying off your balance every month. It is a downward spiral that is best avoided all together.
5. Opt out of health and dental coverage ONLY IF you already have similar coverage–If you are still covered for health and dental on your parent’s plan, or another plan you already pay into, you may be able to opt-out of your student health and dental fees and be reimbursed this money. However, keep in mind that you may need to provide proof of this in order to successfully opt-out, as well as, there may be an opt-out deadline. It is best to discuss your options with the school before making any decisions.
6. Buy, sell, and swap old text books – Take part in selling, swapping and buying used text books whenever possible. Be sure to check with your instructor or school bookstore that you are acquiring the correct or equivalent edition of texts, as they change often and are sometimes unusable once they do. If your school bookstore does not offer used book options, they may have resources as to who does in your area.
7. Use your student discounts – Many businesses offer student discounts and rates, so take full advantage when able. Check with the school’s student association for resources to local businesses that offer student discounts and rates. You can also sign up for the International Student Identity Card (ISIC), which will get you discounts on a range of products and services and is usually free to post-secondary students.
8. Shop around, use coupons, and look for bargains – anywhere that you can save a buck helps. Look for sales, discounts, and specials, and shop as fruitfully as possible.
9. Take advantage of tax deductions and tax credits – Check with both the provincial and federal governments for the tax credits and deductions that are available to students on things like tuition fees, books, moving expenses, and more.
10. Save on transportation costs – Walking, biking, and using public transit are the cheapest ways to get around. Check with your school for student rates on bus passes.
Scholarships are awarded to domestic [Canadian citizen or landed immigrant] and some international students based primarily upon their academic achievements, however, other conditions such as financial need, community involvement, and extracurricular activities could be used as secondary criteria to make the award selections.
Bursaries are awarded to domestic students [Canadian citizen or landed immigrant]based primarily upon financial need and are meant to aid and support students’ educational finances, but not replace them. Bursaries may also have secondary criteria, but financial need is the main focus for selections.
High school students:
Okanagan College entrance awards for students graduating from a high school in the OC region are usually posted on the website in early January with a March deadline.
Adult students can start looking for entrance awards anytime.
Current and Returning Students:
Current students who will be returning to Okanagan College can expect to see donor awards posted in March of each year. The Okanagan College Tuition Bursary is posted twice each year, once at the beginning of the fall semester and again at the beginning of the winter semester.
Okanagan College provides an Awards Guide that lists all of the scholarships and bursaries available to students through Okanagan College. Since some awards have very specific criteria that must be met, make sure to read the eligibility criteria carefully.
There are also many scholarships, bursaries, and loans available through a variety of other organizations. Students can look on the Awards Available Through Other Organizations page, but should also ask their parents if they are affiliated with an employer, union, club or other organization which offers scholarships or bursaries to dependents.
Online applications for government student loans and grants are available on the StudentAid BC website. At this website, you can:
apply for student assistance [student loans & grants]
check the status of your application; and
find information on the entire student loan process from applying to repaying
The StudentAid BC online application portal opens around the beginning of June each year. The link to the portal is www.studentaidbc.ca.
Government student assistance is designed to supplement, not replace, family resources. If a student does not meet the government’s criteria to be an independent student, the student’s parental income will be required to determine if a financial contribution is expected. However, it is important to note that the government will consider circumstances such as disability and how many dependents are in the family.
The government does not grant independent status simply because a student is living away from home. The following criteria must be met to qualify as an independent [group B] student:
- must have been out of high school for 48 months [4 years] or more; or
- must be married, a single parent, separated, divorced or widowed; or
- must be in a common-law relationship for at least 12 consecutive months before the start of classes; or
- must have worked in the full-time labor force for two periods of twelve continuous months each since leaving high school; or
- must be or was at the time of their 19th birthday, a youth in continuing care or custody of a director of child welfare in BC [ward of the court-the government is/was their legal guardian]; or
- must be without legal guardians, as their parents are deceased
For more information about the dependant and independent student status and criteria, please visit the StudentAid BC website.
If your student loan/grant assessment comes back to you as denied or with a smaller funding amount than expected, you may be eligible to request a re-assessment or appeal of your application. You will need to book an appointment with a Financial Awards Assistant to go over your options and advise you of the correct processes.
To be eligible for full-time student assistance, you must be registered in at least 60% of a full course load [40% for students with permanent disabilities as approved by StudentAid BC] for the entire educational period covered by your student loan application.
Please note: previously passed courses and courses which are audited, wait listed, Adult Academic and Career Preparation [upgrading] or PLA [Prior Learning Assessment] are NOT counted in the minimum course load calculation. It is your responsibility to ensure that the courses you are registered in meet the minimum course load requirement. Should you have any questions, contact the Financial Aid & Awards Office.
The minimum 60% course load requirements by program at Okanagan College:
- All university transfer, degree, and diploma programs: 9 credits per semester.
- All vocational, trades and health certificate programs: the full program as outlined in the Okanagan College Calendar. If you will be taking less than the full program, you must speak with a Financial Awards Assistant to ensure you are enrolled in the minimum 60% course load (or 40% for students with permanent disabilities as approved by StudentAid BC) for the entire educational period covered by your StudentAid BC application.
The school automatically notifies the government should you withdraw or drop to below the minimum 60% course load requirement (40% for students with a permanent disability approved by StudentAid BC). This may put you in an "overaward" situation; overawards are deducted from future assistance if not repaid. If the withdrawal pattern is repeated, you may be advised that no further Student Loan funding will be forthcoming.
Student loans and grants are not available for the Adult Academic and Career Preparation program. However, the Adult Upgrading Grant (AUG) is available to eligible applicants. Click here for more information..
If you are still studying full-time but no longer receiving funding through StudentAid BC, you need to apply for interest-free status to delay paying back your student loan. The online interest-free application (on the StudentAid BC website) will need to be submitted, and can only be done by students attending B.C. public post-secondary schools at this time. The online form will then be sent electronically to your school for confirmation of enrolment and then to your loan providers for assessment.