Like many young adults, John Moore is applying to college and he was surprised by what he found.
“When you get a letter out from one of your programs to say that they’re over-enrolled, it’s very discouraging,” said Moore, who lives in Guelph, Ontario, outside of Toronto.
The problems weren’t the ones that FordCareers, a division of Nav Canada, found. The government financial aid agency hired a consultant who discovered widespread problems at the Ontario college system.
College administrators across the province must approve every student for the type of financial aid they qualify for. The problem is that they don’t have the authority to approve financial aid payments even for students who are actually enrolled. And parents say they can’t get answers from administrators.
“When I called (UCI) and I talked to the vice-president of finance, he told me he couldn’t tell me what my daughter is going to get,” said Deborah Doyle, whose daughter also attends a community college in southern Ontario.
Doyle, of Trillium Lakelands Community College, says her daughter “didn’t get her chance to get in.”
While both Doyle and Moore say they worry their son will be caught in the “catch-22,” many are frustrated by the situation and the inability to help others.
“For me, it’s a way for the ministry and the bureaucracy to regulate how much students should be paying back and a way to create debt for students who get trapped in this,” Mike Cabot, a professor at Guelph University, said.
Cabre feels the Ontario government makes far too many excuses for students caught in the mess.
“Students should go back to school and get back in the classroom because that’s where they’re going to get better,” Cabot said.
Danielle Marotta knows what it’s like to be caught up in the gridlock. She is from Ottawa but she is studying a two-year criminal justice certificate program at Royal Ottawa College in west-end Toronto. She paid for her program and even enrolled for her training in the department of social work, but ended up paying for both courses.
“I was looking for a job when I was applying for jobs and I would have made an income that would pay for my whole program and I never got a job. So now, I have a significant debt from back schooling from courses that are over-enrolled. And I didn’t get a job.”
Marotta says that she received an application out two months ago but hasn’t heard anything else from the school. In the meantime, she has had to put her debt and other educational costs on her daughter.
Olive Kable is a parent who is pretty fed up with the college bureaus in Ontario. She says students are sometimes told to reapply, only to be told the same again.
Kable recently found out her daughter, 21-year-old Carli, is in college, but what she didn’t find out is that as the semester was about to end, Olive and Carli had received a second email telling Carli not to expect financial aid payments before she completes her first semester.
Carli is trying to finish her education and to get a job to help pay off her student debt, but Olive can’t help but be frustrated.
“There’s no mechanism for me to ask for help for my daughter. So how can we help her?” Kable asked.
“I’m extremely frustrated,” Olive Kable added. “Student debt is non-negotiable, but what about my daughter?”
Asked to comment on Olive Kable’s situation, Cindy Pattison, the President of ICIC, said, “We’re aware of this and we are being proactive. We understand the concern, and we’re addressing it.”
As for Olive Kable, she says she will do all she can to help her daughter get her education, but it’s just not that easy.