An Alberta Ombudsman review of the Student Aid Alberta program has led to changes by the province to improve information and transparency regarding the student loan review process.
The Ombudsman’s review was triggered by a student inquiry in 2014 about the review process. The Ombudsman found there was insufficient information on Alberta Innovation and Advanced Education’s Student Aid Alberta website regarding available avenues of review related to student loan decisions. Student loan award and review decision template letters contained inadequate information about how to access the process and the available next steps in the review process. The problem extended to all public information available to students and their families about what happens when they receive a decision about their student loan funding application.
“Like all Albertans, students are entitled to a fair and transparent review process, especially when it could have a significant effect on their future,” said Peter Hourihan, the Alberta Ombudsman. “Their ability to participate in the process is very limited when guidance and information about the process is difficult to obtain.”
After advising the department of the Ombudsman review, we learned the department had already begun work to revise the entire review process, and make it transparent and understandable for students. The willingness of Student Aid Alberta to work with the Ombudsman allowed for our input and resulted in a number of changes being made to policy, communication materials such as the website, forms and correspondence, and procedures.
“We are confident these changes will lead to a more administratively fair process for students and their families. We will continue to provide oversight and monitor the department’s implementation of the changes,” said Hourihan. “We also stand ready to investigate complaints or concerns related to the student loan review process.”
An independent office of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, the Ombudsman investigates complaints of unfair treatment by Alberta government departments, agencies, boards and commissions, as well as other authorities.
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