Students struggle to make ends meet as loan disbursements delayed

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Delays have consequences

With the end of the penalty-free pay period ending September 30, some students are worried about the fact that they have yet to receive their student loans for this year. This problem has also impacted many students who have never had to apply for student loans before, but were forced to because of COVID-19 disrupting their summer employment.

Julian Wotherspoon, a student and Outreach & Events Coordinator of the Regina Public Interest Research Group, said, “In July I got a letter saying I would have money deposited on September 2. But it’s now the eleventh. So my budget for rent, school supplies for me and my kids, and groceries is all out and I’ve had to dip into savings.”

“Everything was the same as other years, the university was just slow to confirm. Apparently, my enrolment has now been confirmed but it took them nearly 10 days to do that and now that they have it, I still don’t have my funding.”

As of September 20, Wotherspoon has still not received her student loans, putting the delay at over two weeks now.

Due to COVID-19, it’s no surprise that everything is delayed, disorganized, and disappointing, but it’s a real struggle for many students. For many, student loans help to pay for not just school, but also a living allowance, like rent, food, medication, and transit. A delay by even a couple of days can force students to dip into their savings, borrow from family and friends, or require them to put purchases on their credit card, forcing them to make high-interest payments. And some students don’t even have those options. Prior to the pandemic, 40 per cent of students in Saskatchewan were food insecure, a number that has only increased thanks to COVID.

In a call to financial services, with a member who asked not to be named, they gave this reasoning for the delay in students getting their loans.

“At-home processes are slower and clunkier than in office procedures. Things that could have been easily done … are taking longer, both for the government and for the university, and typically involve large email chains spanning several days. Most institutions, the University of Regina included, are behind in their administrative details. The university services in particular experience heavy traffic at the beginning of the semester, and with new protocols and untested, made-for-COVID systems, things take longer and more checks are required. There are a lot more students applying for loans and things and a lot of students applying late. Each student takes time to process, so every additional student means longer wait times for the rest.”

On the Government of Saskatchewan website, they stated they’re dealing with “a higher volume of loan applications, email, and telephone inquiries at this time. The patience of students and their family is appreciated.” They, too, are dealing with difficulties due to COVID-19. Their Student Service Centre office is temporarily closed to the public, which means everything is being done online. 

When asked about how late loans might be in reaching students, the university said, “It is always possible that students will not receive their money before the payment cut-off date. Both the University and the government put in immense effort to get everyone processed, but there will always be stragglers and late applicants. The tuition grace period will remain as it is with the tuition payment due on the first day of classes and the extended penalty free payment period lasting until the end of the month. The university is doing its best to provide students with the proper paperwork in a timely fashion and is largely up to date on financial service requests.”

Unless students applied for loans late this year, the University is confident students should have their loans before the grace period is over. That’s still inconvenient and stress inducing for many students, who are already dealing with an extreme amount of stress this fall. The University would like to remind students that they have a list of mental health resources on their website to help students who may be feeling down or overwhelmed this semester, while they do their best to adapt and adjust to all the changes COVID-19 has brought this year. Counselling services are available online via Zoom, and students will typically be assisted within a week of contacting them. 

“With the Fall term now underway and most learning taking place remotely, it is key that mental health and well-being supports are available to students,” interim President Thomas Chase wrote in a message to the university community on September 18.

This is an even greater problem for international students who are waiting on delayed student visas. Canadian Immigration Services has been delayed in approving study permits and visas, and students are not hearing back about the status of their application. Students are being encouraged not to call or email but to wait for communication from Immigration Canada.   

If any students have other concerns about their student loans and disbursement payments they are encouraged to contact the University of Regina’s Financial Office. 

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