Ch 23: On Handouts and Welfare

Are Grants Worth It?

I can see why people don’t love to go for grants. I don’t claim it’s an easy process. Rather, I view it as a “worth it” one in some cases.

In September, I applied for post-secondary funding for January. We’re two weeks til the semester start date, and I’ve received nothing. After I asked enough departments, I received confirmation that “funds will be coming.” Oh.

I don’t know how much, or when.

Further, I’m told that while I’m eligible to hire a tutor and have that cost covered, the following is also top secret until part way through the twelve-week semester:

  • who is eligible to serve as tutor;
  • the contact info of the person who knows some;
  • how much I can offer the tutor per hour;
  • how many hours of work I can offer the tutor.

The system’s expectation is that within the twelve week semester I will, in this order:

  • start school
  • at a specified date, become liable for the course cost
  • some day—maybe before; maybe after that—maybe receive an unknown amount of funding
  • become permitted to officially request a tutor
  • begin the paperwork for that
  • wait for the response
  • receive approval to hire a tutor, and the details of that criteria and budget
  • hire the tutor
  • finally begin receiving tutoring

I live inside a different timeline, where tutors also have schedules and are often not available on a moment’s notice.

In my dream world, and probably the tutor’s dream world, all of this would have been arranged, say, two months—heck, even three!—after I had submitted my initial application.

So, I get it. Grants are weird and cumbersome and tricky. We aren’t allowed to know what’s coming, when. We can’t hire until after the program’s official start date. And so on.

Frankly, I worry about the effect this approach has on younger students. Not only might they experience significant additional stress—not knowing what’s coming when, and being unable to arrange anything in advance—they are actively taught at school to make financial commitments they may or may not be reimbursed for. They are pressured to just “wing it” and “hope for the best” and “trust that everything will be fine.” Is it any wonder so many bright students exit with a degree, massive debt, and a habit of buying on credit? They spent four years being taught to.

A lot of disability services—inside and outside of the postsecondary school system—urge likewise. It’s all “well and good” for a third party to urge us to rack up the bills without assurance; they’re not the ones left with payment due.

Similarly, a friend was ripped off by a large bank recently, because the bank pitched on vague promises, and asked my friend to trust.

Despite my frustration, I apply. The process is no better or worse than the irritation of most other jobs. At the moment, they’re offering me cash bonuses of $4000 per year, plus the in-kind equivalent of $2000. The system’s not ideal, but until I’m making an equivalent rate at any other activity, I’ll take it! But, I also keep an eye on their systems, so that I’m not the one left with a hefty bill if they err anywhere along the way.

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7 thoughts on “Are Grants Worth It?

  1. I agree that it is a weird and inefficient system. We live in the states but my son worked as a tutor for awhile and carried his phone everywhere. Students would call and ask if he could see them that day. He knew by about 3 pm his phone would ring like crazy until about 10pm so just kept those times free. Here the students did not plan at all and it had nothing to do with payment of tutors as they had to pay themselves or probably their parents paid.

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    1. Oh boy, Cassie, I sure don’t want to be the person doing that to the tutor! That said, your son was so smart to simply keep those hours open!

      Sometimes I think my hyper-planny orientation just doesn’t quite fit with a lot of how the world is. I try to make room in me for the non-planny orientations, too. I do feel sad, though, when I suspect I’m irritating certain workers with my pursuit of clear, advance info. And, I know that in many cases, the workers simply aren’t at liberty to provide information any sooner than they do, so they’re stuck too!

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  2. Hi again Joon. Any chance you’ll copy this comment to your MLA (if the grant is provincial)? Or perhaps after your grant is awarded (do you feel the system may be punitive v.a.v. criticism)? I hope like heck this is not a private funding organization, although it certainly does have some bureaucratic actors also…

    Sorry for the weirdness around revealing all when the decision is already made and would be so helpful for planning!

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    1. Hi BNgarden! I can’t even find out where the tutoring funding comes from, lol! I know the tuition grant is provincial, and the general grant is federal, but this tutoring one is tucked away all secret so far. The funding is for folks with disabilities, if tutoring is needed for specific areas of learning. I know I spent two years trying to get a tutor for my (same disability) son, to no avail, because the needs and availability of the tutors just did not line up with the tricky system protocols. I’ve found a workaround for his needs; now it’s my turn! 🙂

      There’s certainly a lot that needs addressing, and for me it always feels like a “pick your battles” matter, because I only have so much time and energy to lobby. And, there are of course far greater needs in the world—and even in my region—than optimal timing for my tutoring funding. So, pick my battles I do. But, I appreciate that I have this space to share these little stories. Writing Rising was so much about saying, “Hey, some of this “support” stuff is cuckoo! And, hey, here’s how to navigate it…”

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  3. “Frankly, I worry about the effect this approach has on younger students. Not only might they experience significant additional stress—not knowing what’s coming when, and being unable to arrange anything in advance—they are actively taught at school to make financial commitments they may or may not be reimbursed for. They are pressured to just “wing it” and “hope for the best” and “trust that everything will be fine.” Is it any wonder so many bright students exit with a degree, massive debt, and a habit of buying on credit? They spent four years being taught to.”

    Oh my gosh, Joon, this this THIS!!!

    Yes to all of it, but this especially had my head resoundingly nodding emphatically.

    But I have to laugh about how secret it all is – I mean your specific example of the tutor funding. Surely there’s a conspiracy theory in there somewhere, but I’m not going to indulge myself in coming up with it. 😉

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  4. I should probably pick your brain later about being on the other side of the grant money – the tutor in this example. Something I definitely want to look into more — if I can help lower income people, they get free/cheap services, and I get paid at the same time, it seems win-win. But I’m not at a place to deal with that at the moment.

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    1. Hey MK! Your idea is AWESOME, truly a win-win. Folks that need help in a specific aspect of learning receive it at no cost to them—and build their capacity to serve—while tutors receive well-deserved income.

      The homeschool and unschool communities for school-aged children seek tutors available during the day, wealthy friends of mine have been unable to find a tutor in their preferred musical instrument, and I’ll be reaching out shortly for help with specifics I just haven’t been able to figure out on my own. Seems to me like there’s a fair amount of work available to people willing to piecemeal it at 1-3 hours at a time!

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