Students looking for an alternative way to pay their student debt may be interested in Aeroplan's recent partnership with HigherEdPoints, which allows members to transfer reward points towards the Ontario portion of their student loans.</p>
Every 35,000 Aeroplan points transferred will be converted into a $250 payment. The trend has quickly attracted various academic institutions across Ontario who, as HigherEdPoints founder Suzanne Tyson said, feel that the decision requires little effort.
“Many of our 70-plus participating institutions have said, once they join, it’s a no-brainer,” said Tyson.
According to Tyson, a code is created for every $250 of converted Aeroplan points, which is then forwarded to a HigherEdPoints Account. Once the user creates an account HigherEdPoints then transfers payments directly to OSAP. The University of Waterloo, however, is not among the list of institutions currently participating in the HigherEdPoints system, but does not deny that it is beneficial while it is still determining the possibility of bringing the program to UW.
“We agree that it’s an innovative and appealing payment method,” said University of Waterloo’s supervisor of Student Financial Services Loron A. Pellowe. “We have recently been in conversation with HigherEdPoints and we are currently reviewing this opportunity in light of our current business processes to determine if it’s an option we can facilitate.”
“Our partnership with HigherEdPoints will help students keep their debt levels manageable and reduce loan defaults,” said May Nazar of Media Relations with the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities. “The payment will reduce both the interest and principal of the Ontario Student Loan.”
There is currently no comparison to other reward systems of this type, as Aeroplan’s partnership with HigherEdPoints is the only loyalty program that offers the loan payment conversion process — although Nazar said that more programs like this may be introduced in the future. She also said that as of June 17, 2015, “all Ontario post-secondary students and graduates could begin converting Aeroplan Miles to payments on the Ontario portion of their OSAP loans.”
“I’m actually surprised that Waterloo isn’t part of it. In a sense, it seems that they don’t care about their students’ debt if they haven’t joined the program,” said UW geography and environmental management student Courtney Munro.
While UW is deciding whether to got on board with the plan or not, some students perceive that the university is apathetic towards students who are burdened with debt, and would welcome every opportunity to become debt-free.
“You would think that students [would] want as many avenues as possible to pay for their tuition and their debt, and this seems to be a pretty easy way,” said Zach Schofield, also from geography and environmental management. “You would think they would want to give students the opportunity to do that. I’m surprised they’re not.”
HigherEdPoints says it is “working around the clock to get every higher education institution in Canada on board as quickly as possible,” and that there are no fees for institutions to join and no fees for students or family members to use the program.
This article was edited since publication to clarify that HigherEdpoints transfers payments directly to OSAP, and to clarify that UW would be in fact open to the idea of joining Higher Ed points as a participating institution.