Student Financial Aid Delays Drive Thousands of Dollars in Debt

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Student financial aid delays lead to thousands of dollars in debt

Ministry of Colleges and Universities acknowledges “some delays for a very small number of students”.

Denise Daley waited months for her OSAP payments, which caused hardships for her and her family.

A mother struggles to make ends meet due to delayed payments from the Student Financial Assistance Plan Ontario (OSAP).

Denise Daley says she and her family are mostly eating noodles due to being over three months late.

Without the $36,000 she needs to pay for tuition, school supplies and living expenses, the widowed mother of two is forced to fall behind on bills, miss rent payments and damage her credit rating by going into debt of thousands of dollars.

It's all because of a problem the province doesn't acknowledge or explain to her, she says.

Every time I tried to do something , I was being held back, Daley tells CBC Toronto.

Sophomore at Kikkawa College in Toronto says she called OSAP at least once a day, never being able to speak to anyone before the phone line was cut.

Denise Daley's financial aid office, with whom she stayed in frequent contact, was unable to obtain more information.

C' x27;was really depressing and horrible, says the one who finally received financial support at the end of November, more than three months after the start of her school year.

Depending on the province , OSAP delays affect only a very small number of the approximately 250,000 post-secondary students who receive these payments.

But Denise Daley notes that three other students in her class were in the same boat until very recently.

NDP Critic for Colleges and Universities Laura Mae Lindo, hears the same echoes across the province.

What we're mostly hearing right now is that wait times for OSAP to be from eight to ten weeks to almost four months, notes the MPP for Kitchener Center.

MLA Laura Mae Lindo, NDP Critic for Colleges and Universities, says he's heard of students waiting up to four months for OSAP payments. She adds that some give up because they can't wait that long.

Waiting four months to receive your OSAP payment is a huge wait. Some people have actually decided to put off going to college. So it's a huge problem, adds Lindo.

Many students just ask for transparency, she says.

Right now, too many students across the province find themselves in this situation and might have made different choices about work or courses if they knew the situation would be like this at advance, believes the NDP MP.

She believes that it is essential to recognize that there is a problem in the system, but that this Recognition of the problem is not happening at this time and it is a source of frustration for many students.

Kara Wheeler is in her third year of studying social work at the Brantford campus of Wilfrid Laurier University.

Kara Wheeler has applied to OSAP in mid-July.

The portal showing her estimated approval date kept changing and changing, she says.

At one point, the site estimated that she would get her approval in November, four months after she applied.

The deadline, which had already made her late paying her rent, was starting to worry her in class.

I've been here 12 hours and I'm thinking , how am I going to eat, says Kara Wheeler.

Unable to find a way to contact OSAP, Mrs. Wheeler contacted her MPP for Niagara Falls riding, Wayne Gates, .

His financial aid installments were approved soon after, but still later than all previous years.

Why isn't there a phone number I can call? Why is there no point of contact to listen to a question or concern, she wonders.

Minister of Colleges and Universities, Jill Dunlop, who previously denied overdue payments, did not accept CBC Toronto's request for a three-minute interview this week.

However, the minister's press secretary, Liz Tuomi, confirms that there are delays for a very small number of students with complex [file] reviews.

< p class="e-p">She adds that the delays were neither extensive nor unusual.

When asked by CBC Toronto if the minister believed improvements needed to be made to service delivery and communication with OSAP customers, given some of the issues, the ministry did not answer the question directly. , but noted that students should speak to their school's financial aid offices or check the OSAP website.

Ontario Colleges and Universities Minister Jill Dunlop declined an interview request from CBC Toronto, but her department now acknowledges there are delays for a very small number of students.

According to Liz Tumoi, the ministry recommends that students apply for OSAP approximately three months before the start of their study period.

Several financial aid offices in schools across the province have indicated shorter periods in the recommended deadlines offered for students applying this year.

As for Denise Daley, she wants an explanation and an apology from minister Jill Dunlop.

She also wants the system to work so this doesn't happen to her next year or that it doesn't happen to other students starting in January.

I was doing very well [before this case] and I paid all my [bills] on time. This situation really hurt me, says the mother.

With information from Clara Pasieka of CBC News

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