Financial aid office addresses disbursement backup

Scott Redmond, Staff Writer

Financial aid is a necessary option for many students to be able to  afford a college education.

Listening around campus, it’s not strange to hear students talking about not knowing why they don’t qualify for financial aid, saying that they weren’t told about what they needed to do in order to get their aid or that they don’t understand why their aid hasn’t arrived yet even though they turned in the required papers.

Dean of Financial Aid Christine Thomas said that financial aid is a federal process, and, with all the forms that have to be filled out, timeliness is the key. She said that one of the main issues they see that might delay their processing a file is flags for verification.

I know that it’s hard for students to go through it, but we want to have a petition process so that they can appeal the decision.”

— Dean of Financial Aid Christine Thomas

Flags for verification come because the government sees something on a student’s forms that they may want the professionals on site to look at, and the school has to therefore check out those forms because verification is a mandatory process.

“The verification students that I mostly see is because they don’t have either verification of their name through social security or something so they’re asked to go get that, and they don’t like that, they don’t like another step,” Thomas said. “But unfortunately if it doesn’t match we can’t even submit an order for the check.”

Thomas said that they have only had maybe two cases like that this semester. The other issue that has come up is that students having to get prior year tax records and they have to request that transcript from the IRS, and the reason it might be flagged is because the income and family size are not matching up to what was reported.

One other area that they sometimes see issues is with the petitions that students have to fill out after they have more than 72 units, meaning that they have to go to mandatory counseling to reevaluate their situation. The other petition is for students that have been academically disqualified and they must fill out a petition to state how they will fix whatever issues caused them to be academically disqualified.

“I know that it’s hard for students to go through it, but we want to have a petition process so that they can appeal the decision. Otherwise we would just have to say no, and we don’t want to do that and the government gives us the choice to have a petition process so that’s why we do it,” Thomas said.

There are currently approximately 160 files ready to be processed and Thomas said they are just waiting to get them into the queue, which takes a bit of time because they have to verify everything in each file. They have processed and awarded 4,507 files so far this semester, Thomas said.

Students’ opinions on financial aid, like with most issues, are divided.

“I’m not happy with the representatives who are handling financial aid right now,” said 27-year-old Nicole Fleming, a business major. “They are not knowledgable, and I’ve had to come back several times to delay my financial aid the whole semester.”

Aaron Hayes, a 20-year-old business major, had different feelings about the department.

“I have had problems, but it was my fault. My mom did the whole tax thing wrong, and it took a lot of time for them to ask for paperwork to verify it, so I didn’t get my financial aid on the last pay day,” Hayes said.

Overall, Hayes said he felt satisfied with the system.

“I feel that the financial aid system is good depending on the salaries, so I think it’s pretty much accurate,” Hayes said. “It helps out getting the BOG fee waiver if you could qualify for it. For the most part, I think that the financial aid system is efficient at what they’re doing.”

In regards to communication, Thomas said she isn’t aware of any.

”I truthfully believe that the communication is there and if there is something we’re missing, I’m always happy, the financial aid office is always happy, to fix or maybe adjust and we do that all the time,” Thomas said. “The unit downstairs they talk with students every day so if there is something that needs to be changed or tweaked in an email to a student or make it more clear to a student.”