Student loan delays impact ability to pay school tuition

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Problems processing Manitoba Student Aid applications are leaving some post-secondary students in a pinch as they face tuition payments and no cash.

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Problems processing Manitoba Student Aid applications are leaving some post-secondary students in a pinch as they face tuition payments and no cash.

One such student is Edis Kazic, who said his calls to Manitoba Student Aid have gone unanswered and he may have to drop out of school if the funds don’t come through soon.

“They are not picking up the phone,” Kazic said.

Brandon University Students’ Union president Olufunke Adeleye said that organization is also aware there have been delays in students receiving Manitoba Student Aid loans, but hadn’t received word of anyone dropping out as a result. (File)

“They’re not answering emails, and it’s driving me up the wall. I don’t know what to do anymore.”

Manitoba Student Aid provides loans, grants and bursaries to students who need help paying for school. When a student applies for Manitoba Student Aid, they also become eligible for financial assistance from the Canada Student Loans program.

Kazic, who is from Brandon, said he applied for Manitoba Student Aid on July 4 and was accepted for a $16,000 loan for his first semester. Based on that approval, he said, he moved to attend the Toronto Film School in Ontario.

The money was supposed to arrive in three to 10 business days, Kazic said. In October, after he inquired about the state of his funds, student aid staff shifted his application status to review, then back to complete, so technically he applied and was accepted twice.

However, he said, it’s two months into the semester and he still hasn’t received the funds.

Tuition is $2,200 per month. He said he has made one payment out of his own pocket and is about to make another, but his money is running out.

“Next week, if I don’t get money together, I’m going to have to drop out and then either figure out how to move back or just, I guess, stay in Toronto because I don’t know what to do,” Kazic said.

“I’m kind of stuck.”

Kazic said he’d like to see his loan soon so he can cover the $4,400 he has already gathered for his first tuition payments. He had hoped to save money to start a production company in Manitoba following school, he said.

As of July 4, according to a provincial government website, the Manitoba Student Aid program was to be integrated with the Canada Student Financial Assistance program. Moving forward, Manitoba student loans were to be managed by the National Student Loans Service Centre.

Kazic said he tried to reach the National Student Loans Service Centre too, but there was no response.

Closer to home, Brandon University said it is aware of the problem and is providing some flexibility with tuition.

“We’re being extremely lenient with our deadlines while we wait for the issues to work their way through the system,” BU director of marketing and communications Grant Hamilton stated in an email.

The university isn’t aware at this point of anyone having to drop out due to the issue, he said, adding student emergency funding is available.

Brandon University Students’ Union president Olufunke Adeleye said that organization is also aware there have been delays in students receiving Manitoba Student Aid loans, but hadn’t received word of anyone dropping out as a result

When reached by the Sun, a provincial government spokesperson confirmed “some system issues” have impacted Manitoba Student Aid processing for some students, although the province didn’t specify the problem or supply a number of students who were affected.

The spokesperson said several of the issues have been resolved and staff are working to fix the remaining problems that impact some students. Staff in the program have taken action to meet the high demand for its programs and address backlogs, which includes working overtime and bringing in extra staff, the spokesperson stated.

Manitoba post-secondary schools have extended tuition deadlines for students, the spokesman added, and students are encouraged to speak directly with their institution regarding any concerns about tuition deadlines.

“Manitoba Student Aid is focusing on processing remaining applications as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson stated in an email response to questions. “Students are encouraged to check their online portal for updates about the status of their funding.”

Students who need to submit an inquiry regarding their funding are asked not to submit multiple queries on the same issue as it extends the response time for every one and impacts the allocation of staff resources for processing applications, the spokesperson said.

According to the province, 16,636 of the 17,300 Manitoba Student Aid applications have been assessed (96 per cent). This means either further student action is needed to process the application, or it has been assigned future disbursement date, or the process is completed and the funds disbursed.

So far this year, more than $104 million in federal and provincial loans, grants and bursaries have been disbursed to Manitoba students.

» ihitchen@brandonsun.com

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