Funding fiasco leaves student stuck
Published Tuesday, February 26, 2013 5:33PM MST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 26, 2013 6:34PM MST
A High River woman is on the hook for several thousand dollars after the province asked her to repay an educational grant that she had already spent.
Vilma and Alex Romoda live below the poverty level with their two young children.
Vilma, who spoke only Spanish, wanted to learn English so she could get a job so she got a grant from Alberta Human Services to attend Bow Valley College.
Because of the couple’s low income, Vilma received $21,000 for tuition and living expenses.
Her courses ended last August but in December, she got a letter from Alberta Human Services saying she had been overpaid $556 dollars.
She disputed it and got a second letter from the province agreeing that she didn't owe $556 but instead the number was $6,344.
The letter said that the province discovered it made an error calculating her grant in 2011.
"Now I am very angry about that because they are not supposed to make an error like that, they are supposed to be more educated people in that office, they are supposed to know the mathematics," said Alex.
The couple called CTV Consumer Specialist Lea Williams-Doherty for help.
Lea asked Alberta Human Services how the error was made.
A spokesperson said it failed to take into account some of Alex's reported income and the error coincided with the implementation of a new computer system.
Lea asked if similar errors might have occurred on other files and she was told that they didn’t have that information.
She then asked, since the Romoda's did nothing wrong on what grounds can Alberta Human Services force them to pay it back?
"Any individual who applies for a grant signs a declaration on the application stating that they give the province the right to recover any benefits to which they are not entitled, including those made due to administrative errors," said Brenda Wadey from Alberta Human Services.
Alex says coming up with $6000 is impossible for them and he is afraid the province will carry out its threat to report them to collections.
"I got two kids to take care of and my wife and the cost of living and there's no way we can pay that, no way," said Alex.
Lea says the bottom line is that anyone receiving a grant might have to pay it back.
She says that the province says anyone who applies for a grant signs a declaration agreeing to that and it doesn't matter if you're already done with your schooling.
Lea points out that the decision isn't final and that students have the right to appeal to an independent citizen's panel.
Vilma's appeal has been set for March 14th.