A top university official said if students were more accountable, they would not have as many problems with financial aid. “Ninety percent of financial aid problems come from students’ failure to successfully complete forms,” said Marcia Boyd, director of financial aid.
Boyd said students should have received disbursements of funds, such as net checks, Tuesday or Wednesday, but the financial aid office was waiting on the disbursement agencies Regions Bank/AmSouth and Edamerica.
“Not all students who apply for financial aid will receive funds,” Boyd said.
She said students and parents falsely believe that simply filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid will grant them money. But other criteria involve proper registration and satisfactory grade progress.
Some students admit their failure to successfully complete the process has led them to their financial woes. Robert Knox, 19, a sophomore business administration student from Chicago, said he does not place any blame on the university.
Instead, he holds himself accountable for his procrastination, which left him without a loan that he needs to pay for school. Although he is pressed for time and said the long lines are a hassle, he said, “The worst case scenario for me would be to take out a private loan.”
Other issues that students face involve their inability to access their financial information.
Catia Farrington, 24, a junior animal science student from Miami, said she could not understand why she was not able to view her award for the spring.
“I don’t even know how much money I’ll have to buy my books, and it’s the last day for book vouchers,” Farrington complained. “Their systems were down the last time I stood in line, and they stated that they would call me but never did,” she continued. Other students’ problems were more drastic.
Shayna Williams, 19, a sophomore criminal justice and psychology student from the Bronx, said her problem of not receiving aid occurs every semester.
“I had to take semesters off because loan amounts weren’t approved due to lateness,” Williams said. Williams went on to say that this ongoing problem made her consider transferring. Boyd said she has not noticed a decrease in enrollment because of financial aid issues. But she said there are problems within the Office of Financial Aid.
The problems involve staff turnover and leadership that creates different policies and procedures.
She also said the office is not fully staffed.
Boyd emphasized implementing better approaches to educating students and parents on financial aid topics, but she also said, “We now have to educate the staff as well.” Boyd spoke about the errors students make that impede the process of receiving aid.
She said students need to apply for federal aid by the March 1 priority deadline. Boyd also went on to say timeliness in completing the process gives the university time to take care of paperwork involving verification and missing documents.She also wanted students to know the processes could take four to eight weeks to complete.
“There is a misunderstanding among parents and students on the functions of the financial aid office,” Boyd commented. She identified problems ranging from parents calling in with misguided questions, students’ failure to sign promissory notes and a myth that finances can be fully covered.
“There is always something we don’t cover, even for students on a full scholarship,” she said.
In addition, Boyd said some students who take out loans are in a pool that involves a more complicated process where they may need parents to cosign, but said some parents may be unwilling or lack the necessary credit to cosign.
Distributing guides and online student handbooks may alleviate some of these problems.
These guides will be distributed in residence halls, are available online and will soon be provided on www.ourfamu.edu. New procedures are in place in the financial aid office. For example, faxes to the office will no longer be accepted. And Boyd said all calls will be answered, and students will receive responses to issues within a 24-48 hour period.