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Newfoundland and Labrador

Student aid delays continue for yet another semester

Some post-secondary students in Manitoba have said they are still facing funding delays and difficulties contacting Manitoba Student Aid (MSA), including one student who was forced to drop out after waiting months for her funds.

Krysten Johnson, a former counseling student at the University of Manitoba, told 680 CJOB that she applied for funding in early September.

She said she was informed there would be delays due to changes in the student aid system and that she paid for much of her tuition with her credit card while awaiting funds.

Johnson said the next time she heard from MSA was in mid-December, when she was told her application had been approved and she would receive her money after December 15. She claims the money never arrived.

She said she was told on December 23 that her case was under review.

She added that despite numerous phone calls and emails, she was unable to reach the MSA office and that the MSA website crashed every time she tried to view her application.

The Manitoban was unable to secure an interview with Johnson.

Other students also had difficulties contacting MSA or accessing the website.

Fortune Eboh, vice chairman of the Canadian Federation of Students Manitoba and an environmental studies student at the University of Winnipeg, called Johnson’s story “very sad” and related it to his own experience of lags, website crashes and uncertainty about the status of his funds.

“It was a situation where I had to keep contacting my school to let them know this was an issue,” he said.

“And eventually I had to sort out the funding myself while waiting for them to step in.”

Eboh pointed out that these topics have been present for numerous semesters.

“We expected that they would be aware of these challenges and may have taken these actions to address some of these issues,” he said, “but it seems to be a problem that crops up every semester right now that has been pressuring students to do so.” much coercion.”

He pointed out that students need funds to not only pay for tuition, but also for basic living expenses such as rent, childcare, food, transportation and accessibility.

Last summer, the Manitoba government announced that the province’s student assistance program would be integrated into the federal assistance system to “streamline and simplify” the administration of funds.

Existing provincial loans will be administered by MSA until April, when the National Student Loans Service Center (NSLSC) assumes control. Students then only have to take out one loan and make a single monthly payment, rather than the two separate provincial and federal payments required under the current system.

Five other provinces – British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario and Saskatchewan – have integrated their provincial loan programs into the NSLSC since 2001. These transitions involved minimal disruption.

In contrast, this year’s Manitoban students had trouble raising funds or contacting MSA as they faced lengthy delays and dropped calls.

Eboh said the government needs to “overhaul” the student assistance system and fix the MSA website so it can handle the amount of traffic it’s receiving.

Further Education, Skills and Immigration Secretary Jon Reyes declined a request for an interview, but the Minister’s spokesman, Brant Batters, issued a written statement.

“As of January 27, 2023, Manitoba Student Aid has received over 18,900 applications from Manitobaans seeking post-secondary education and 18,524 of those applications have been evaluated, representing over 97 percent of all applications received,” the statement said.

The statement explained that “evaluated” may refer to applications that require further action by the student to process, that have been assigned a payment date, or that have been completed by students who have already received funds.

The government hasn’t said how many applications fit into each of those three categories, but said MSA has resolved most of its system problems and has hired additional staff and authorized overtime to meet the backlog.

The statement also said that study aid “is intended to supplement, not replace, a student’s own resources” and encouraged students to speak to their schools if they have concerns about class deadlines.

“Funding student aid is not intended to fund all living expenses, all tuition, books, and materials,” it says.

Eboh argued that the Progressive Conservative government’s removal of the tuition cap created an increased need for student grants, which he described as “an essential service” for students facing barriers to higher education.

“It is totally unacceptable that the students who face the most obstacles in entering college or university do not have the support to help them succeed this semester,” he said.

01/31/2023: At the time of writing, Jon Reyes was Secretary of Education, Skills and Immigration, a position he no longer holds following this week’s cabinet reshuffle

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