Error on STU’s website causes missed scholarship opportunity

    Joshua Sallos said he is “a student on hiatus” and that he’d like to come back to study at St. Thomas University. (Aaron Sousa/AQ) (Aaron Sousa/AQ)

    After the Free Tuition Program was replaced in April, Joshua Sallos knew he would need a scholarship from St. Thomas University to continue for the 2019-20 academic year. But the upper-year scholarship deadline on STU’s website was incorrect, which made Sallos miss his chance to return for the fall semester.

    From an unknown date until Oct. 4 2019, the incorrect deadline read March 1. The actual deadline is May 15. The error was corrected after it was discovered by The Aquinian on Sept. 26.

    “It doesn’t really change anything now, but it’s kind of hilarious,” said Sallos.

    “My thought was, ‘I wonder if there are any alternatives to funding myself’ and I was like, ‘Well, of course I’ll apply for scholarships’ and then I was like, ‘Aw, the deadline for scholarships has already passed.’”

    Sallos, in addition to not being able to apply for STU scholarships, was unable to afford post-secondary education after the Free Tuition Program was replaced by the Renewed Tuition Access Bursary on April 9.

    The new program was expanded to include private institutions which allowed more students to have access, but the money allocated to the program was not expanded. This meant while the pool of applicants expanded, the money available to individuals shrunk.

    Previously, students could receive a maximum bursary of $10,000 for university education and $5,000 for college education from the province. Now, the amounts have been reduced to $3,000 and $1,500 respectively.

    Sallos said he didn’t receive a grade lower than an A in the two years he was at STU.

    “I’m so intensely confident that I could have gotten scholarships that would have made ends meet,” he said.

    “Based off of GPA and even community activity I think it would have been a laughable exercise.”

    Sallos said a scholarship between $3,500 to $6,000 would have been enough for him to continue at STU.

    “That would have been enough to apply and be confident that I could be financially sustainable.”

    Jeffrey Carleton, associate vice-president communications at STU, said the error was changed as soon as the communications team was made aware.

    “On the upper-year scholarship section of the website, we did have the wrong date with regard to deadlines. And the date said March 1, that’s the deadline for incoming students. So the deadline is meant to be May 15.”

    Carleton said there’s no connection between the government decision to cut the Free Tuition Program and STU’s scholarships and bursaries for upper-year students.

    “In this case, it looks like a compounding series of issues that affected this one student. I hope this student for next year or perhaps for January can sit down and look at what’s available to them and we would be certainly willing to work with the student in this case.”

    Carleton said if students need the money, there’s always emergency bursaries available at STU as well.

    While Sallos considered applying for student loans through his bank to continue his education, he said he already has credit card loans with non-negotiable interest rates to pay off.

    Sallos said he contacted the office of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Trevor Holder to discuss options to continue his studies at STU. He had a series of conversations over the phone with Holder’s office administrator.

    “But it wasn’t a viable option, given my existing credit background.”

    For now, Sallos said he will continue working, plans to pay off debt, start a savings account and will look out for free or affordable learning opportunities.

    “I really would like to come back to St. Thomas University,” Sallos said.

    “I’m a student on hiatus. They can’t keep me away.”

    With files from Aaron Sousa and Caitlin Dutt