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By Eric Lam

Business and Technology Editor

Ryerson’s financial assistance office recently awarded $1,350 to the wrong student and is now forcing her to return the money, whether she can afford it or not.

Chi Nguyen*, a second-year journalism student, received an e-mail late Monday afternoon from Wendy Peters, a department manager with the School of Journalism. Peters told her the school decided to charge the mistakenly-awarded money to her RAMSS account. “I don’t want to pay for their mistake,” Nguyen said. “It’s a guilt trip, you know? Like they want me to feel bad and pay for their mistake.”

Peters said the financial assistance office would not pay Mai Nguyen, another second-year journalism student and the rightful recipient of the money, until Chi Nguyen could come up with the $1,350.

School administration even threatened to take Chi’s OSAP money to cover the total, until she told them the $790 she received for the winter term couldn’t cover the difference.

Chi said Peters suggested a mistake in student ID numbers led to the error. At an impromptu with the financial assistance office on Tuesday morning, Nguyen was told she could pay the school back on her own time, but for the cash-strapped student, the deadline isn’t the problem.

She now owes the school almost $3,000 (she owes almost $1,500 in tuition), an amount she cannot pay. “I went and asked [to make sure the money was mine], I didn’t take it blindly,” Chi said. “I feel sorry for the girl and I hope she gets her money right now, too. “It’s not fair she has to wait for the money to come from me,” she said.

However, it seems that Mai Nguyen doesn’t need to wait for Chi Nguyen to pay. “They didn’t say it was a mistake,” Mai said. “They said they’d send a cheque to my addresss in 10 days.”

In fact, Mai said school administration never told her about the conditions imposed on the other Nguyen, and only found out when the Eyeopener informed her.

“It’s unbelievable when a university messes up to this extent, messes up our students’ lives in this way,” said Ryerson Students’ Union President Nora Loreto.

Loreto, who called for the university to let both students keep the money, said she had never seen something like this in her time at the school. “It’s crazy,” she said. “Students shouldn’t be forced to correct mistakes made by administration.”

Chi got a cheque in the mail for $1,350 in early December. Surprised, she went to the financial aid and cashier’s office where she was told it was for a bursary and scholarship.

That scholarship was the Del Bell Memorial Award, a first-year award worth about $800.

*Chi Nguyen has volunteered as a writer for the Eyeopener in the past, but did not report in this story.

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