Aid delays dampen college experience
Fall is almost upon us. The first weeks of the semester have passed. Most students have settled into their classrooms, bought textbooks and dropped and added all the necessary classes to continue their year.
But not every student.
Across campus, many students who applied for financial aid as early as the priority deadline in April are still eagerly anticipating their refunds so they can buy books and pay bills. The amount of red tape required to process a refund has pushed them to last resorts: taking out interest-charging emergency loans or only taking classes they can afford out of pocket.
Financial aid is supposed to be guaranteed to all eligible students who apply on time, but many with an expected family contribution as low as zero have yet to receive a cent.
Staff and student errors, miscommunications, such as misfiling paperwork, and forgetting to sign a document can slow the entire process.
Despite the sluggish nature of the financial aid office, some students face bigger problems than delayed refund checks. Business junior Meena Khatri had to take a leave of absence this semester when a clerical error left her thousands of dollars in debt to the University and Chase Bank.
‘UH put a stop on my refund check after I had already deposited the money in my account,’ Khatri said. ‘I contacted the office to report the error, and they put the money in my account to cover it, but they posted that I owed the money to the University on my PeopleSoft, instead of taking it out of my financial aid.’
Khatri never received her Pell Grant or the Federal Subsidized loan. Before enrolling in classes, however, she is required to pay nearly $3,000 to the University and $2,000 to Chase Bank. How can people owe money that they never had?
Problems with the financial aid system extend beyond this campus. Although federal Pell Grants and subsidized loans help immensely, they are often not enough to cover the rising cost of tuition, books and other expenses. Many students are ineligible to receive enough aid to cover their tuition, and even if their parents qualify for the Parent Plus Loan, the parents may be unable or unwilling to offer assistance.
Veterans with the Post-9/11 GI Bill are facing similar problems, but on a different level.
Although the Post-9/11 GI Bill offers full tuition coverage, a book stipend and housing vouchers, the money is still required to pass through heaps of red tape before reaching aid offices.
With the amount of veterans entering college, the Department of Veterans Affairs is backed up. This causes veterans to pass through the long, drawn-out process that other students have to deal with.
This leaves all students wondering how they can navigate through a seemingly impossible system to ensure collegiate success. Applying early helps, as well as making sure required paperwork is turned in and guidelines are met in a timely manner.
But in the case of Khatri, many of the problems with our school’s financial system are out of students’ control. Better communication between staff and students could solve many problems.
Students suffer every year because they are not properly informed of issues with their financial aid. This is especially difficult for incoming students who are unfamiliar with the process and PeopleSoft.
The University needs to get a grip on an issue that has plagued it for years. If most of these problems are solved, it will create a much more pleasant college experience for all.
Liz Price is a communication junior and may be reached at [email protected]