Ottawa universities offer to help students felled by Phoenix

As tuition deadlines loom, Carleton University and the University of Ottawa are offering to accommodate students who haven't been paid by the federal government due to its problem-plagued Phoenix payment system.

Tuition fees due this week at Carleton, U of O

Students make their way through the University of Ottawa campus. The U of O and Carleton University both say they want to offer help to students who fear they can't pay tuition due to problems with the federal government's Phoenix pay system. (Danny Globerman/CBC)

Ottawa's two largest universities want to hear from students struggling to come up with tuition because they haven't been paid properly for their federal government jobs.

Tuition fees are due Wednesday at midnight for those attending the University of Ottawa, while payments to Carleton University are due Thursday.

Both universities say they've heard stories over the summer of students concerned about being able to pay tuition because they were still owed back pay by the federal government, due to the problem-plagued Phoenix pay system.

Carleton and the U of O both suggest that students in that position visit their institution's student accounts office or their department with a letter from their employer, confirming they have not been paid.

The registrar at Carleton University said staff would look at deferring those tuition payments or waiving interest or late fees.

"It's really working with the student, understanding on a case-by-case basis what their concerns are, what their issues are, and understanding what Carleton can [do] for them," said Suzanne Blanchard, the university's registrar and vice-president of students and enrolment.

If students haven't thought to tell the university about their Phoenix problems, or are simply too shy, the university wants to help, Blanchard said.

"It's really difficult for young adults that have temporary work opportunities for the summer to be in this type of situation," she said.

So far, Carleton has worked with 15 students whose paycheques have been affected by Phoenix, while the University of Ottawa has been approached by three people.

Alqonquin College's fees are not due until October, but that institution said financial assistance is available for students in "exceptional circumstances".