Office of Financial Aid attempts to address issues

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The Office of Financial Aid hosted a virtual town hall Wednesday, and what started out as a smooth update quickly began to fade after an uproar from students who expressed frustrations with the office. FAMU responded to students’ dissatisfaction with a Financial Aid Town Hall meeting that provided students with clarity to questions and to improve the overall communication between  students and the Office of Financial Aid.

“To our students, parents, and guardians, we hold this session today primarily to provide clarity with regards to the issues you are facing concerning the Division of Financial Aid this semester,” FAMU President Larry Robinson said. “Beyond that at FAMU we go overboard looking for ways to support our students – fundraising, internships, fellowships, and innovative programs such as our National Alumni Associations …We spend a lot of our time looking for ways to reduce your financial burden including facilitating your time and matriculation and entrance into the world of employment.”

FAMU’s success is rooted in the Florida State University System. FAMU has the lowest average out of pocket cost to students in regard to tuition and fees. FAMU is continuously working to decrease the financial challenges of its students, Robinson said.

He claims that for the years of 2020-2021 and 2021-2022, the average out of pocket cost will drastically go down in comparison to previous years.

“In the most recent data for 2019-2020, that [average out of pocket cost] decreased amazingly to $2,370. When the final numbers are in for 2020 and 2021, and 2021-2022, you can be certain that the cost will go down even further after our nearly $56 million that we used to alleviate student debt,” Robinson said.

In regard to the delay in the releasing of student funds, the Office of Financial Aid and the Office of Student Affairs apologized for the stress it has caused students and parents.

“I sincerely apologize for the stress this situation has caused our students and parents,” Vice President for Student Affairs, William Hudson Jr., said. “In an effort to improve business processes, the university invested a significant amount of funds in an upgraded technology to the Oracle Student Financial Planning module.”

According to Hudson, the Oracle Student Financial Planning [SFP] module, newly adopted by FAMU, is said to allow students and parents to submit all information electronically, view information early, and make informed decisions on financial planning. A system meant to improve the student and parent experience did the absolute opposite and caused the delay of federal funds.

“The awarding and disbursement of approximately $41 million to the SFP system triggered issues that cause the approval for federal funds to be delayed,” Hudson said.

In the interim, the university has been offering emergency advances to assist students. All advanced funds will be repaid through the student’s account once the issue is resolved.

The director at the Office of Financial Aid, Lisa Stewart, addressed questions that were submitted prior to the meeting.

Question: “When will my plus loan be processed?”

“If the plus loan credit check has been approved with the Department of Education, the plus loan must be accepted in the SFP student portal before funds can be disbursed. If all the eligibility requirements have been met, disbursements will be applied to your student account within 24-48 hours,” Stewart said. “For specific questions regarding your situation, please contact your financial aid representative.”

Question: “Why wasn’t there communication sent over the summer to give the parents a heads up of this new process by offering a ‘how-to’ video to ensure that all parents knew what they needed to do?”

“We have created several ‘how-to’ tutorials to assist students and parents in the transition, and email notifications were sent to FAMU students via their FAMU iRattler account,” Stewart said. “These tutorials are also available on our website and will be resent to the campus community via FAMUInfo.”

The Office of Financial aid is working hard to respond to all students as quickly as possible. The Associate Vice President for the Administration and Assessment, Nigel Edwards, along with the Office of Financial aid, and the Division of Student Affairs, want to ensure to students that Spring semester will be better.

“Moving to the Spring semester, we will run disbursements in simulation 30 days before the start of the Spring term to ensure these issues do not reoccur,” Edwards said. “In closing, I must reiterate that we take your concerns to heart and strongly desire all of our students to have a positive experience with all aspects of their stay at FAMU.”

For more information, the Office of Financial Aid encourages students to contact their assigned financial aid representative.