Designation Information for Schools

See also: Designation 101: How designation benefits students.

Students can only use government student loans to attend designated programs at designated schools. Designated post-secondary schools are evaluated to be sure they meet the criteria for student assistance programs. Certain kinds of programs are never eligible for designation, but most programs ARE designated.


What is the Pan-Canadian Designation Policy Framework?

In Canada, government Student Assistance borrowers can only use these funds to attend approved schools and academic programs that meet the criteria of the Pan-Canadian Designation Policy Framework.

This policy reflects four key principles:

  1. Accountability and informed choice
  2. Consumer protection
  3. Complementing other post-secondary education policies
  4. Taxpayer protection

The Framework makes sure that all post-secondary schools across Canada meet the same designation criteria. These performance-based criteria reduce the risk of students not repaying their student loans by assessing three types of performance.

    1. School Performance: e.g., administrative compliance, student support
    2. Student Performance: e.g., completion data, employment data, withdrawal data
    3. Portfolio Performance: e.g., repayment data, default data

How to Become a Designated School

Nova Scotia Schools: The Nova Scotia Designation Policy describes the criteria that post-secondary schools and programs in Nova Scotia must meet to become and remain designated. A school cannot be designated without offering at least one program that is eligible for designation.

Schools outside Nova Scotia but inside Canada must apply to their home province’s student assistance program to be added to the Master Designation List, which is the master list of designated schools for all Canadian students.

A school outside Canada can apply to Nova Scotia to become designated when and if a Nova Scotia student wishes to attend that school.

To apply for designation, a school can complete a “Designation Package” and submit it for review to the Manager of Designation. To learn more about this process, Contact Us.

Designating / Adding New Programs:

When a school offers a new program and wants this program to be eligible for student assistance funding, the school must apply to have the new program designated. The program must meet criteria stated in Part B, Section 2 of the Nova Scotia Designation Policy, “Criteria applied to post-secondary programs at designated schools in Nova Scotia” (or Part B, Section 3, in the case of e-learning programs.)

The designation of a school does not mean that all programs offered by that school are automatically eligible for student assistance funding. Only those programs that meet the designation criteria outlined in this policy will be considered eligible.

All schools must apply to have new programs designated before student loans will be issued to students enrolled in these programs.

A school designation review can take up to 4 weeks.

A program designation review can take 2 to 3 weeks.

Roles and Responsibilities of Designated Schools:

Post-secondary schools play a central role in retaining students, ensuring student success and ensuring students improve their overall employability. Student success is a key element in effectively managing financial risk within student assistance programs. As a result, post-secondary schools play a critical role in any effort made by government to successfully manage this financial risk.

Administrative compliance:

All designated schools must actively review and provide confirmation of quality assurance with respect to all government-funded student assistance documents and processes under the schools’ control. Schools must also take appropriate action at the earliest opportunity to prevent overawards and misuse of the program.

The administrative compliance criteria include six areas: advertising and recruitment, completion of a student application, changes to designated schools/programs, reporting requirements, and information to student and designated signing officer(s). Please refer to the Nova Scotia Designation Policy for complete information on the administrative compliance criteria.

Repayment Risk Zones:

Schools are assigned one of three risk zones based on their students’ repayment performance as calculated by the Federal repayment rate indicator. This information is provided annually to the schools. More information about risk zones and the risk zone category status of designated schools is available on the Canada Student Financial Assistance Program website.


Repayment Risk Zones


85.2% or more of students who attend this school repay their student loans
60.0% to 85.2% repay their student loans
 Less than 60% repay their student loans


Schools in the GREEN zone are rated as ‘good’, and will be exempt from any performance improvement targets, interventions, or sanctions. However they still have the benefit of review by the Student Assistance Office. 

Schools in the YELLOW zone will be required to improve their repayment rate 3 percentage points over three one-year assessment periods (for a total of 3% over 3 years) from the time they first go into the yellow zone.

Schools who fall into the RED zone will be required to improve their performance to meet the YELLOW zone threshold by the end of three assessment periods (3 years).  Schools who fail to improve from the RED zone to the YELLOW zone will be placed under review and may be de-designated.

All designated educational institutions influence the overall financial risk of the student loan portfolio. Therefore, it is recommended that each school develop a student loan repayment strategy.