What went wrong? (OSAP)
Letter to the Editor
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 14:10
As BUSU’s Vice-President University Affairs, I am responsible for representing the voice of Brock students to government. It is without question that Brock students are frustrated over the recent Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) debacle, and have been for some time. I have been working on this issue for about a month now and finally everything is coming together.
The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities promised me last week that the problems with OSAP had been cleared up and students would get their money within days. The promise wasn’t directed to me personally, but the question posed was mine. By Tuesday, Sept. 25, nearly all OSAP students had received their money and were running to the Pen in droves to buy groceries. While some, I’m sure, were celebrating, I and the rest of Brock’s 7, 000 OSAP recipients wondered, “What went wrong?”
The Minister reported that OSAP had been a little overwhelmed by the new procedures but that responsibility truly rested with the Universities. I spoke with the Brock Student Awards & Financial Aid (SAFA) office after meeting the Minister and heard a much different story. Brock, it seems, had completed their responsibilities weeks ago, but OSAP had waited two work weeks to initiate the processing of our students’ files. This is a classic case of “he said, she said,” but whether both sides are right or wrong doesn’t matter at the moment. What OSAP students want to know is, what was done to make these changes less disruptive?
While I do not work for either OSAP or the SAFA office, I do work for the students. Countless students contacted me seeking help with their money. I called SAFA and our lobby organization OUSA (Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance), who has a direct line to the government, and I was able to receive regular updates, posting what information I had on Facebook. Publicly, I heard from both sources that everyone would get their money soon but nothing else. Never once did I hear from any party that extra steps were being taken to speed the process up.
In my frustration, I do not mean to insult those who work in the SAFA office. Brock has a great team of extremely talented and polite professionals who give 100 per cent, seven days a week. They have always helped me as a student, and have helped me as a BUSU Executive. However, since students have had to wait two or three weeks longer this year to get their OSAP, it is perfectly acceptable to ask everyone involved – what went wrong? These delays placed a huge stress on students as they went without their textbooks, clothes and food. In an effort to ensure this does not happen again, I will be meeting with the SAFA office, and the Ministry of Training, Colleges & Universities (with OUSA) in the coming weeks. I will continue my work on OSAP by reviewing how the University and province handled the problem, and where improvements can be made. It is very important that this problem never happens again.
Steven Nicholls is the Vice-President of University Affairs for the Brock University Students’ Union. The role of VPUA is to address all political and academic issues that affect a student’s time here at Brock to all levels of government. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to e-mail Steven at email@example.com or call him at 905-688-5550 ext. 4198.