May 24, 2022

The Queens County Citizen

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Loans and Scholarships | Lack of transparency and fairness, Public Protector concluded

Loans and Scholarships |  Lack of transparency and fairness, Public Protector concluded

(Quebec) There is a lack of transparency and fairness in the program of government loans and bursaries, the Quebec ombudsman concluded in a report published on Thursday.

Posted at 2:30 p.m.
Updated at 5:25 pm.

Patrice Bergeron
Canadian Press

Furthermore, the current rules impose unnecessary fines on students with major functional impairment (MFD).

“There are inconsistencies in treatment and therefore must be included in the decisions made by Aide financière aux tudes (AFE),” public protector Mary Rinfrett said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

However, these decisions can also compromise higher education or future plans for young people.

In each section of her 55-page research, she cites “lack of transparency in the way things are done”, “inequalities in treatment” and “lack of hearing” that can harm a student who wants his throat.

On average only 1,200 requests for review are filed each year in the Office of Appeals and approximately 860 are rejected.

Neither the applicant nor the plaintiff is aware of the reasons why the AFE rejected his request.

“Inquiry […] The reasons behind the AFE’s decisions will not be made available to the parties concerned, “M wroteMe Rinfret.

Furthermore, the entire framework that allows one to understand the rules for coming to decisions will not be made public.

“The Québec Ombudsman found that we can read in the survey, although the administrative rules and procedures, directives or guidelines that the AFE follows to apply its law, among other things, are not transmitted through the AFE. Students can not contact them. ⁇

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AFE explains that it refuses to release students without further confusion during the application process.

“Relevant documentation must be accessible,” M responded in an interview.Me Rinfret.

“Something needs to be done to guide students without filling them with all kinds of information. ⁇

The Quebec ombudsman also noted “gaps” in the notes recorded by the authorities processing applications for financial assistance.

“According to the information obtained during the interviews, the error or absence in the analysis notes was also a major error. ⁇

Major functional impairment

MMe Rinfret observes a number of problems in identifying students with major functional impairments.

However, this recognition is mandatory in order to receive financial assistance or all assistance in the form of a scholarship even if they are studying part time.

“Standards do not apply uniformly,” the public protector said.

From 2017 to 2020, the AFE has always identified low and low requests for recognition of 8,600 to 7,000 major functional impairments.

The Quebec ombudsman could not figure out why this number was reduced because not enough notes were recorded in the files.

MMe Rinfret specifically denies excluding certain diagnoses such as mental health issues.

Potential misrepresentation

In addition, it is critical to treat potential misleading statements, such as telling students that AFE suspects have provided false information in order to obtain financial assistance.

MMe Without informing about the rinfret analysis criteria and consequences, students raise document cases of mistakes made in good faith.

“So there is no warning that students can be exempted from the loan and bursary system for two years,” she said in an interview.

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Office of Appeals

Finally, m.Me Rinfred stated that the Office of Appeals had no independence because it was an internal body of Aide financière aux tudes, which was responsible for studying requests for review.

This leads to “inequalities among students,” she lamented.

It is therefore recommended that this office be made a separate cabinet body from the AFE to ensure its “independence, impartiality and credibility”.

It also suggests that persons who are dissatisfied with the decision of the Office of Appeals should submit an appeal to the Administrative Tribunal.

It holds the AFE accountable for its decisions to “external and independent authority”.

Higher Education Minister Daniel McCann declined to comment.

However, his ministry said it would submit an “action plan” next month to respond to the report.

The Quebec Ombudsman analyzed the complaint files over a three-year period from 2017 to 2020.

More than $ 1.1 billion a year in loans and bursaries are allocated through the AFE.

According to data provided by the Ministries of Education and Higher Education, AFE received 171,692 applications for the year 2019-2020. That same year, 8180 were rejected.

In 2019-2020, 1006 requests were received for review.