On Monday, Feb. 6, Mount Allison’s registrar’s office sent an email requesting that students with outstanding tuition and fees, at that point overdue by two weeks, pay them. Accompanying this was a message threatening to cut off university services. “Email, library privileges and meal cards may be suspended on or after Feb. 15, 2017,” the email read.
Students who already had outstanding loans were charged a $75 late-payment fee. For many students who rely on government loans and grants to cover the cost of their tuition and fees, this came as a surprise.
Students who rely on government loans are bound by their loan or grant release date, which is often set after the tuition deadline. Students can request a payment deferral 10 days after the original payment due date, which they were able to do on Feb. 3 this year.
Sybil Goulet-Stock, a third-year student who relies on Quebec student loans to pay tuition, was frustrated when she was contacted by the registrar’s office for outstanding payments even after having requested a payment deferral. “Mt. A is well aware that I don’t have my loan… but I started to get those ‘threatening’ emails…even after they had granted me an extension,” she said.
For students living in residence, a message indicating that services will be suspended can be daunting. During her second year at Mt. A, Corinna Paumier, now a fourth-year student, paid her tuition late because of a late government loan release date. “I was in residence then and they told me they were going to cut off my meal hall privileges,” she said.
Many students who rely on loans or cannot make payments on time for other reasons are frustrated with the late-payment fee. Students who owe fees and don’t have additional funds on top of their government loans and grants may be placed in a particularly difficult position.
Paumier, whose government loan did not cover her entire tuition balance this semester, feels that the university does not accommodate students who do not have extra money at their disposal. “As much as I understand them having an extra charge [for late payments], for low-income students, that is a lot of money. That extra $75 is coming out of my paycheck,” she said. “$75 could be food for a whole month for me.”
Paumier also said the financial aid process at Mt. A can be daunting. “It’s a long process to apply for those grants.”
For students with disabilities who need to apply for supplementary grants for materials and tutor hours, the loan and grant process can be much more convoluted.
For Sarah MacKinnon, a fifth-year psychology and commerce double major who accesses these services through the Meighen Centre, the process of applying for government loans was difficult. “Especially when you’re going through the disability process, you have to re-submit materials before you can get your loan. You have to apply for your student loan once you’re already in school, which is stressful,” she said.
When MacKinnon received the late-payment email, she was under the impression that the school had already received her government funding. “I would have paid the money [from my line of credit] if I had known,” MacKinnon said.
This experience has left a poor impression on many students. “For them to message you only once it [becomes] a problem is neglectful on their part,” MacKinnon said. “This is not something I have time to worry about.”
In an email to the Argosy from the registrar’s office, a representative said that “Mount Allison does not have access to individual student loan release dates.”