Revamped financial aid moving smoothly

In previous years the financial aid process has been known to have its share of problems. Long never-ending lines, less-than-professional customer service and delayed refund checks are among the many reasons why students deemed financial aid to be a disaster.

But this year, financial aid adviser, James McMillan, said students should expect “remarkable changes.” He attributes these changes to newly hired staff, online updates and electronic student account access.

Marcia Boyd, the newly appointed financial aid director states that the first thing on her agenda is to “determine the issues and concerns students may have.” She also wants to create solutions to all the existing problems. Boyd and her staff are working diligently to accommodate students with friendly customer service, she said. Their main goal is to create partnerships with students, advocating them to prepare in time and meet deadlines to ensure quality service, as well as to eliminate myths and unrealistic expectations.

McMillan and Boyd agreed that only about 80 percent of the student body actually meet deadlines.

They also said that about 90 percent of the students who come into the financial aid office do not need to be in line because of minor issues and discrepancies.

For example, many students come to financial aid to try to get their net checks, but Boyd said, “Student accounts is in charge of issuing net checks.”

McMillan and Boyd encourage students to take advantage of the online features of financial aid to reduce unnecessary lines and produce quicker results.

For example, students can sign up for direct deposit, accept or decline financial awards and look at refund totals for the semester.

Some students are currently awaiting the arrival of their net checks for the fall semester.

But the disbursement of checks has moved faster with the addition of the direct deposit feature.

Love Edward, a sophomore pharmacy student from Tampa, said, “It felt wonderful to receive my net check on time.”

Edward said her past experiences with the financial aid process were pretty bad, but in her recent trips she has seen many improvements and a much more relaxed environment.

Boyd would like students to know that she too was once a student and completely understands how stressful the financial aid process can be.

She stresses the importance for students to apply early and on time for financial aid.

“Those who apply on time get serviced first, and those who don’t, will have a longer wait,” Boyd said.

Boyd desires to not only have a competent staff, but would also like students to do their part for a smoother transition. For a better understanding of the financial aid process, Boyd and her staff are planning to create a bulletin board with important deadlines and workshops for both parents and students.

The financial aid office in the past has acquired bad publicity. But it is evident by the shorter lines, faster payments and increased student satisfaction that the financial aid process is making strides in the right direction.