by John Austen
It just may be the most popular spot on campus during the first two weeks
of the winter term. From Jan. 7 to 21, the Financial Aid and Awards Office
at Concordia is full of students applying for or picking up loans. Many
of the students are in dire straits, seeking what is commonly known as
Sometimes there may be a delay in processing loans, so students
come to us for temporary advances, explained Brenda Brisson, who
is the coordinator of client services.
We know that emergency situations arise. People have to pay their
rent, buy groceries and pay medical bills. We know that money is eventually
coming to a particular student, so we have no problem giving advances
in most cases.
In past years, it was common for more than 75 people to be waiting at
one time to have their case dealt with at the Financial Aid and Awards
Office, in the lower level of the J.W. McConnell library complex. Students
would often be lined up in the corridors with waits of more than three
hours. Things are much better this time around, Brisson said.
We used to be more restricted in our times, but now things are more
efficient. We have two lines going now, and people are usually in and
out within an hour.
The day this reporter visited the office, all two dozen chairs in the
waiting room were filled with students, with another six or seven outside
patiently waiting to get in. All eyes were on a television screen in the
corner of the room, watching a movie. Every student was given a card with
either A or B on it and a corresponding number. The A line is for
general information, verification and application, while the B line is
for quick pick-up.
I hope this wont take too long, said Michael, 20, from
Toronto, who was last in line outside the office. Im supposed
to be getting financial assistance, but its not ready and Im
not sure it will be before my rent is due (in February). I phoned an advisor
and was told to apply for a temporary loan.
To be honest, Ive heard horror stories from friends at other
universities who camped out all night to make sure they were first in
line to get help. It was kind of like a soup kitchen. Im sure its
not like that here, though.
Less than an hour later, Michael emerged from the office with a big smile
on his face.
No problem, he said, high-fiving this reporter. I got
it. Now I just have to pick up the money. Its a load off my mind
I can tell you.
Brisson said that while its the busiest time of year for the staff
in the office, and their normal complement of five front-line staff is
down to four, things are going smoothly.
We arent getting many, if any, complaints about the waiting,
she said. Of all the people coming in daily, probably 30 of them
are seeking temporary advances.
Students are eligible for assistance if they are full-time and registered
for 12 credits. For out-of-town students, the minimum is nine credits.
Students who defaulted on their student loans and on whose behalf the
Ministère de lEducation du Québec had to repay the
financial institution do not qualify for financial assistance under the
Loans and Bursaries Program until they have paid back 50 per cent of their
student loan debt.
Applications for financial assistance for the 2001-2002 award year or
related documents will not be accepted after March 31, except in cases
where students can prove that they could not meet this deadline because
of circumstances beyond their control.