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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Columns

Problems raid financial aid


The Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid is a necessary component to a successful university and appears to give students some relief. It could be the third word of its title — scholarship — that incites good vibes. Maybe it’s the concept of aid itself. Or, if nothing else, the notion that there’s one building of several on this campus that makes its livelihood out of assisting its patrons indiscriminately, rich and broke alike.

But when you visit this building on business, you realize that you’ve been fooled. If someone graphed a pie chart out of our university’s ailments, from the man-holes on Wheeler Street to mood-dependent office hours, they’d be hard pressed to find room to fit in the issues that reside in the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid.

Whatever choices you make during your tenure at this institution, none of them are conceivable until you’ve paid your tuition and fees — to accomplish this, you need to take a field trip to the little building by the parking garage. And even once you’ve arrived, there’s no assuring that it will be successful.

The office could benefit from brainstorming some solutions to the issues that seem to continue being ignored. Even before the obvious incongruities of online inaccessibility and the low likelihood of being waitlisted with a single digit, the office could be greatly improved by altering its information distribution methods. A study hasn’t been conducted, but it seems a fair amount of its visitors pass through because they simply have no idea what has happened to their funds.

Those that had the luxury of forewarning may have received an absurdly vague email. These look more like badly worded ransom notes than Tier One notifications. The unlucky ones show up to the office because they’ve got nowhere else to go after discovering moments before class that they’ve been dropped. It isn’t until they find time to check their email hours later that they see they’d been warned of impending fines only minutes before their morning classes. They had all of half an hour to save their semester.

The office’s hours aren’t doing them any favors either. It’s as if maximum occupancy must be reached before its employees can take off for lunch. That isn’t a slam on the building’s personnel, but with a clientele that ebbs and flows like a steady current, the hours of operation ought to reflect the populous. This would mean that around noon a reasonable amount of personnel should be on staff. Ideally, it would resemble service based on the customer. Because that’s what a university really is — a service — and keeping a customer waiting is no way to stay in business.

This isn’t to say that the office doesn’t have its own problems: budget cuts, staff restructuring and marketing shifts take a toll on the way an operation is run. We know it’s tough. But, all concessions given, there are only so many excuses to make. And if the University really wanted to give its students something to shout about, they could start with making it a little easier for them to stay here.

Bryan Washington is a creative writing and sociology senior and may be reached at [email protected]


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