An alleged anonymous student is circulating a petition online that has caused concern for students at Florida A&M and the university’s Office of Financial Aid.
The petition, entitled “The staff Office of Financial Aid at FAMU is extremely slow and unreliable,” has accumulated 390 signatures with a goal of reaching 500.
The petition states, “the staff are unprofessional and their communication skills are at an all-time low,” according to change.org. “Students depend on their refund check for livelihood and a good portion of the funds are needed to purchase textbooks. There needs to be an immediate change to the procedure and who handles it. The wait time to receive our aid is unacceptable, especially when the issue isn’t in our hands. FAMU’s Office of Financial Aid needs to be held accountable for their actions or lack thereof!”
FAMU’s financial aid office has acknowledged barriers that created a delay in issuing refunds. Officials with the office said they are working diligently to address the problems at hand.
Nigel Edwards, associate vice president of Student Affairs/Administration Assessment, said that the Office of Financial Aid was made aware of the petition and has reached out to the students affected by the delay in disbursements.
“The university has worked both nights and weekends diligently with our internal IT department and the software provider to resolve these issues,” Edwards said. “The disbursement will be run in simulation 30 days before the start of the spring to ensure these issues do not reoccur.”
FAMU held a special, virtual town hall meeting last Wednesday that provided an opportunity for students and parents to address concerns about the financial aid office. Many questions were answered.
William Hudson, Jr., vice president of the Office of Student Affairs, said that students were awarded $5,000 annually from CARES Act funding, courtesy of FAMU President Larry Robinson. This was one issue among other factors that created a glitch in the system, placing most students’ federal Pell grants, scholarships and loans on hold to avoid overpayment, Hudson said.
Lisa Stewart, associate director of financial aid, issued a public apology and a possible solution to parents and students during the town hall.
“We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience and we do not anticipate this occurring for the spring semester,” Stewart said. “Students are allowed to apply for an advance against the aid that is expected to be released.”
Students will not be penalized a late fee if their funding issue is connected to the financial aid office. They can also apply for “special circumstance” funding if needed. The form is located on famu.edu in the financial aid portal.
FAMU’s financial aid office is preparing to implement a call center to better accommodate incoming inquiries. Customer service is the office’s top priority, they said, and the office hopes to successfully meet the needs of students and parents.
All students are assigned an adviser by their last name. If students have any issues that have not been resolved by their adviser, you may contact the associate directors of financial aid, Ivy Wilcox (firstname.lastname@example.org)or Lassandra Brice (email@example.com).
The town hall meeting was recorded and archived at famu.edu/virtual town hall for on-demand and review.