The Department of Education has its employees working overtime to process student financial aid applications.
So far officials have been able to handle all the paperwork sent in up to Sept. 9.
The wait time for new applications is about four to six weeks.
“Its been busier in the late portion of the application season than it has been in previous years, I think that’s fair to say,” department spokesperson Chris Madden said yesterday.
In slow times, applications can be processed in one to two weeks
“Our peak processing times tend to be from about mid-July to the end of October. Applications submitted during the peak period usually take several weeks to process,” Madden said.
It is difficult to say exactly how many applications are left to be looked at, he said.
The department only keeps track of the number of applications that have already been processed, not the amount waiting to be handled.
Madden estimates there are at least 200 people waiting to hear back. Many of those will have more than one application for different sources of funding.
So far, 1,088 applications have been processed. In 2012 a total of 1,555 applications were processed. In 2011 that number was 1,415.
Pauline Chambers, a practical nursing student, has had to rely on support from family and friends to pay the bills while she waits to hear about her applications.
“If I did not have that group of people I would be quitting school to find a job,” she said.
The Yukon College student applied for the Student Training Loan and the Canada Student Grant.
The training loan, if she’s approved, will net her 400 a month and the Canada student grant will be good for $5,000.
This year she sent her application in on Sept. 13. Last year she sent the same documents in a week earlier, she said.
“Last year I had heard back within two weeks with my confirmed funding.”
About two weeks ago, when Chambers hadn’t heard back regarding this year, she called for an update.
“They called back and said it would be another three weeks before they got to my application because they were still processing August applications.”
Chambers said she has spoken to other students who are in the same position.
“I spoke to one student who lives 45 minutes out of town and if she didn’t have someone willing to help her pay for gas she would also not be in school.”
According to the Department of Education’s most recent annual report, the government spent nearly $6 million on Yukon Grants, Student Training Allowance, Canada Student Loans and Canada Student Grants.
Madden said students can begin applying for financial assistance for September classes in May.
The sooner students apply, the sooner they will hear back, he said.
“We do encourage everybody to start applying as early as possible to ensure we can process their application in time.”
Chambers said she is gathering signatures from other students on an open letter to Education Minister Elaine Taylor explaining her concerns.
“I guess that it takes time,” she said. “But it’s not OK for them to take this long.”
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