Since the implementation of the University’s new PeopleSoft based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, students, faculty and administrators have faced a steep learning curve.
The learning continued this semester when the financial aid component of the system restructured some of the aid that was to be distributed to students.
According to Bryan Terry, director of Financial Aid, the system, which is programmed to ensure that students do not go over the federal budgeting guidelines, “repackaged” approximately 3,000 awards.
Terry explained that every semester the system analyzes each student’s award and verifies with the federal government that the aid the student is about to receive keeps them within budget.
During the analysis, the system detected that some students who received additional aid during the Fall semester after their Spring award was calculated, would have been over budget if they had received the amount calculated.
The re-calculation resulted in less money being dispersed than earlier indicated.
“The system is very dynamic, and as a result, if a student adds, drops a class, basically anything that can affect aid, the changes are reflected immediately,” Terry said.
The previous system known as “Rattlerlink” took around a week to reflect any aid changes.
When asked if the previous system caused the University to violate federal guidelines, Dr. Terry could not comment since the old system was in place before he came to FAMU.
While this affected approximately 50percent of the 3,000 awards, the system also added more money to the remaining 50percent of students.
Those students were people who previously qualified for grants, but did not receive it due to lack of funds.
This usually occurs when students are awarded grants for a full school year, but graduate mid-semester, freeing up money.
Since this was the first Spring semester under the new system, the “repackage” caught the office off guard.
“We’re learning like the student, like the staff, we’re just learning what happened,” Terry said.
Terry insists the department is now better able to handle future problems.
“PeopleSoft makes you adhere to guidelines. While we’re not happy that students had problems, the system worked.”
According to Dr. Terry, by Jan. 13, the Financial Aid Office had dispersed over $50 million dollars to student accounts.
That was largest one time disbursement in the Universities history. The system previously handled $25 million in disbursements.
Members of the Financial Aid Office said they were proud of the statistics.
Dominique Jackson an 18-year-old psychology student from Jacksonville didn’t share the same enthusiasm.
“They should have let us know ahead of time, instead of signing up for something they didn’t know about, they should have researched ahead of time.”
According to Dr. Terry, “some if it (learning) is just experience. We’ll know better next time.”
Jackson said she’s not waiting.
“Now that I know how it works, I know how to handle my business.”
Lajoy Mercer,22 ,senior business administration student from Nashville, Tenn. thinks the system is best for the University.
“In the long run, PeopleSoft will be efficient, but in the implementation state we’re experiencing a learning curve.”