Navigating financial aid takes patience

The Office of Financial Aid lobby area after regular business hours of operation. Photo by A-Chai’a Jackson

FAMU’s Office of Financial Aid is designed to assist students with their finances. Students often seek help but sometimes they aren’t aware of what they need to do to meet financial advisers halfway.

Some assistance offered to students is the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). Students are required to apply by Florida A&M University’s priority deadline on Jan 1 or Oct 1, according to the academic year in which they plan to attend school.

The director at the Office of Financial Aid, Lisa Stewart, said the process can be confusing for some students.

“As the director, the ultimate goal is to ensure that our policies and procedures are fully integrated with our constituents (federal, state, institution, private) to ensure that the process is seamless for our students and program integrity is maintained,” she said. “I will encourage more students to complete the FAFSA on October 1 annually and to monitor their email and iRattler account for important updates. It is imperative that students complete the FAFSA and provide required documentation as funds are limited.”

New applicants are advised to complete the FAFSA; while returning students can simply resubmit a renewal FAFSA. To receive additional information students should go to

Although FAFSA is available for students to apply for; students are encouraged to take advantage of additional funding such as, grants, loans, scholarships and work-study opportunities.

Submitting or resubmitting required information is only the first step to receiving assistance. If the information submitted is approved, students are then selected for the “verification process.”

OFA will require additional information to include the verification worksheet and tax documentation.

OFA at FAMU has changed tremendously over the years due to improved technology. William E. Hudson Jr., vice president in the Office of Student Affairs oversees OFA.
“The Office of Financial Aid has vastly changed since my time at FAMU. The leveraging of technology has decreased the time to delivery, access to information online, completing the FAFSA electronically instead of paper and pencil, and the release of funds after Drop/Add,” he said.

The ability to complete the FAFSA beginning Oct 1 and submitting tax information from the previous year allows students and families to complete the financial aid files earlier and receive financial aid packages early to make informed decisions. Student access to information is much more advanced and the need to stand in line to receive answers has decreased, Hudson added.

He stressed that the longer students wait to submit and resubmit information, the longer their processing time will be. The OFA wants students to be proactive and check emails, iRattler for awards and to have copies of all documentation.

Jaylynn Moss, a graduating senior and OFA associate-worker, said her view of the office changed once she started working there.

“Based off my experience with the Office of Financial Aid, I would say that at first I had a bad experience but now looking back it was totally my fault I got selected for verification and did not check iRattler, nor did I complete the FAFSA application for the summer term in which I would be attending. Once I did everything on my part the process with Financial Aid was smoother,” she said. “I learned to always stay on top of my paperwork and to check iRattler.”

Some students do not understand the difference between OFA and Student Financial Services. According to Stewart, OFA makes award offers and authorizes payments to Student Financial Services. The processing of refunds is handled by SFS.

The tolerance level when dealing with OFA can sometimes turn into a war zone of frustration.
Nigel Edwards, the associate vice president of Student Affairs, said patience can be a virtue on both sides of the OFA door.

“We have a responsibility to try to anticipate some of the concerns that students may have and to try and put things in place to assure that we remove some of the obstacles,” he said. “We also want our students to understand that you are in a professional environment and that you are dealing with folks who can assist you in navigating those obstacles.”