The start of a new school year usually signals the never-ending line outside the financial aid office for students and parents trying to ensure that class costs are covered and all extra monies are properly dispersed back to their accounts.
This year, that line has lasted a bit longer than expected. Going into the sixth week of the semester, many students are still waiting for financial aid and are struggling to support themselves financially.
Some students without financial aid have been unable to pay for books, access codes, lab materials and other school supplies. This, of course, is largely affecting seniors who are being put behind in classes that they need to graduate in the coming months.
One graduating senior, Alexus Darisaw, says going through classes without the proper financial means has been “very difficult.”
“I’m taking 21 credit hours so I can graduate this semester and all of my classes require books, some requiring two or three,” Darisaw said.
The health science major also said that although some of her professors have allowed her extra time to get the supplies she needs, others have not been so understanding, leaving her looking to classmates for the material she needs.
“It’s hard because some of my classes are online only, so I’m missing a lot of Cengage assignments, which is basically my grade for the online classes,” Darisaw said.
Other students have struggled with much more dire financial stresses, being unable to pay for bills and even rent due to the lack of funds. For students whose parents cannot, or do not, support them financially, the burden weighs down even more.
Jena Tavares, a biology pre-medicine major at Florida A&M University, said she had to take matters into her own hands recently in order to support herself.
“I recently started working to help me be able to pay for things until I am able to receive my financial aid,” Tavares said. “It has been tough, but I just have to make certain sacrifices to make sure I can pay for the things I need.”
Many students, tired of the annual struggles with the Office of Financial Aid, believe the problems within that office go deeper than the surface.
Students have created a petition online calling out the effectiveness of the financial aid office and heavily criticizing the communication and customer service of staff members.
The anonymous creator of the petition notes, “Every year there is an issue with the process of financial aid. The staff there are unprofessional, to say the least. Their communication skills this year are at an all time low. We are almost a month into school and a majority of students have not received anything.”
Several students have noted communication issues, saying many financial aid representatives provide different answers about their money. Darisaw said in her “twice a week” trips to the financial aid office, she has received confusing and contradictory explanations.
“I’ve gotten so many responses and it’s like they’re just telling students information they aren’t sure about just to get them off the phone or out of the office,” Darisaw said. “[On one visit] the person I spoke with told me they don’t know why I haven’t received my refund. He asked another lady for help, and it turns out he was doing something wrong.”
The petition, which has nearly 400 signatures after two weeks, has many supporters demanding a complete revamp of the department from the bottom up.
One parent shared her and her son’s five-year struggle with the financial aid office, commenting, “REPLACE THE STAFF OR HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE DELAY.”
The Office of Financial Aid has not responded to repeated attempts for a comment. The Office of Communications said it would reach out to financial aid, but it did not provide a comment either.
If students are having difficulty receiving financial aid, they should make sure all actions within the “View Fin. Aid 2021_2022 Beyond” portal on iRattler are fulfilled and read “completed.”
Students should also visit Student Accounts to make sure there are no holds on their account that would stop financial aid from processing.
If further assistance is needed to resolve financial issues, contact the Office of Financial Aid at FAMU. Both the financial aid office and student accounts are located in the Center for Access and Student Success.