The announcement dropped like a bombshell. In May 2015, access to “profile 3”, which enables quick responses to financial aid applications, was removed from cégep financial aid offices. At the time, the goal of the Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur was to centralize resources to cut costs.
For Monique Lussier1, it was the beginning of a nightmare. As a student life advisor at Cégep Marie-Victorin, she quickly assessed the damage.
“Access to ‘profile 3’ allowed us to provide direct local responses fast. But everything changed after the decision of the ministry. Treatment delays increased to several weeks, which put the most vulnerable students in highly precarious situations,” she says.
“Because of the programs it offers and its location, the students who attend Cégep Marie-Victorin are mostly from lower socio-economic backgrounds and have particular needs. Quick access to financial aid is therefore crucial. I felt powerless to help. But my union involvement helped keep me sane. It really saved me!”, continues Monique Lussier.
Seizing an opportunity
In December 2016, she seized the opportunity to speak to Minister David during a visit to the cégep. “As an activist, I requested that the minister see the collateral damage from the decision for herself. It is the most vulnerable who are the most affected, that is, immigrant or single parent women who have decided to go back to school,” she explains.
It was clear that Minister David was not aware of the situation, and her representatives were surprised by Monique Lussier’s gesture. “She was visibly shaken. Following our exchange, we kept in touch, notably through a letter explaining the extent of the problem,” Monique Lussier adds.
Her action caused a snowball effect. Five months later, the student financial aid office at Cégep Marie-Victorin regained access to “profile 3”, and the student life advisor reclaimed her pride in her job: to meet the needs of the students.
1 Monique Lussier is president of the Syndicat du personnel professionnel du Cégep Marie-Victorin, affiliated with the Fédération du personnel professionnel des collèges (FPPC-CSQ) since 2015.