Alberta post-secondary students face financial aid delays

Lynette Sorsdahl applied for a loan with Student Aid Alberta at the end of August.

But the funds to pay for school and other living expenses still have not come in.

“My rent is not fully paid for October. I could get evicted. I need to pay bills. If I lose my internet, how am I supposed to do online schooling?” she told CityNews.

Chris Beasly, the chair of the Council of Alberta University Students, says he has heard many stories of students dealing with loan delays — delays that are causing a lot of stress.

“Students need to cover rent and essential living expenses no matter what,” he explained.

You can’t not eat, you can’t not pay tuition, and so when student aid is late it means students fall at risk at falling behind on bills, running up credit card debt. All of which can have long-term implications for their finances and credit score.”

The Ministry of Advanced Education tells CityNews that 13,000 applications are still in the cue, waiting to be processed, which they say is “normal” for this time of year. However, Beasly disputes that.

“This was not a conversation we were having this time last year, and 13,000 students is almost the entire population of Mount Royal University,” he said.

“That’s 13,000 students that are probably wondering if student aid is going to come in on time to cover November’s rent, or to buy groceries this week or the week after.”

The Ministry of Advanced Education says it takes up to 45 days for applications to be processed. That timeline could be extended if applications are incomplete or require more documentation.

More applications were also submitted this year, with 4,000 more applications submitted than last year. The ministry adds applications for student loans typically open June 1 but because of the election, it was pushed forward to June 29.

“Alberta Student Aid is working diligently to process all applications as quickly as possible,” reads part of a statement.

Watch: More post-secondary students rely on parents, stay home to finish school: RBC poll

Beasly says that given the increase in students relying on loans to meet their basic needs more needs to be done to ensure applications get processed faster.

“We need to reflect on how the greater affordability crisis is manifesting itself in increased demand on the student aid service. What this means is the ministry is probably going to have to look at putting extra resources towards this process,” he said.

Meanwhile, with the delays, Beasly adds that post-secondary institutions have been accommodating in the delays, and many have waived the late fee penalty.

In total, more than 113,000 applications have been processed this academic year for over 98,000 students, according to the Ministry of Advanced Education

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