Calls to financial aid office ignored

Some students at Florida A&M University are frustrated with the Office of Student Financial Aid and the inability to contact staff members via telephone.      

The Office of Student Financial Aid receives an average of 2,000 calls per day during peak periods, according to Michelle Williams, the associate director of financial aid.
Williams said it is impossible to manage the call volume.

“We have 18 people who answer the phone, but it’s never enough,” Williams said.      
With 18 people handling phone calls, during peak periods each person would have to talk to more than 100 people to control the call volume.     

Williams does not think problems students encounter have to do with only 18 people managing the phone lines. She said the problem is that students do not check their iRattler account regularly. Students also call the financial aid office for reasons other issues.

“I can’t do my job because students are calling about other areas,” Williams said. “Any question can be answered through iRattler…you log on to Facebook, you log on to MySpace. Why can’t you log on to iRattler?”      

Williams also said that when students have issues with the financial aid office, they have family members call on their behalf.

 “Their mama calls, their daddy calls, their sister calls. All their questions can be answered through iRattler,” Williams said.     

Paivia Brown, 21, a fourth-year psychology student from Chicago, said she rarely calls the financial aid office. 

“I don’t even bother much,” Brown said. “I know they won’t answer. I just walk up there to deal with them.”      

Brown thinks some things need to change in the way the office is operated.

“Financial aid at FAMU has a bad rep[utation],” Brown said. “I know people that have left FAMU over them [Office of Student Financial Aid].”     

Williams said she does not believe students’ issues with financial aid affect enrollment.      
Omar Herrera, 21, a creative writing student from Miami, attends Florida State University and is a former FAMU student. 

“I couldn’t take financialaid anymore,” Herrera said. “Their service is horrible.”        

Herrera said he called the financial aid office every day for two weeks straight.

“When I tell you I called every day, I really mean every day…I checked the iRattler system like I was supposed to,” Herrera said. “It would tell me everything was fine online. It wasn’t until I didn’t get my money that I knew something was wrong.”       

Shacara Thompson, 23, a sixth-year pharmacy student from Jacksonville, said calling financial aid; she gets a variety of responses.

“When I call sometimes I get the voicemail, sometimes I get someone who is extremely helpful and sometimes I get someone who seems like they don’t want to be at work. It just depends,” Thompson said.       

Thompson said one solution to solving the problem in the Office of Student Financial Aid is to hire more people.

“I know it’s hard to hire people in this economy,” Thompson said. “[But] they need to get more organized.”

Thompson said she has left voicemails for someone to return her call and she was assured her call would be returned within 48 hours.

“I’m still waiting on that call,” Thompson said.