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March 8, 1999 - March 21, 1999
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Financial Aid -- Moves to Improve

 

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By Amanda Wheeler
Guardsman News Editor
Published Mar. 8, 1999

 

SAN FRANCISCO
Financial aid problems may be improving on campus because of several changes to the current system, as well as a move planned for the end of this semester.

Financial Aid Gripe Fests held at the end of last semester helped identify problems with the financial aid process, staff and systems. The result of these meetings was the drafting of a formal letter to Chancellor Philip Day Jr. regarding problems and possible solutions. (See Guardsman issue number 1, Jan. 26, 1999.) Day met with Dean of Financial Aid Mira Sinco, financial aid assistant Jorge Bell, and Student Representatives Anthony Kenyon and Aimee Patton to discuss the suggested solutions.

At the beginning of the Spring semester one of the suggested changes was implemented. The change involved setting up an extra table for financial aid in the hopes it would give some relief to the long lines. The table was staffed by a financial aid worker who was able to answer questions and give students paperwork. The table did provide some relief, but most students were not aware it existed. "If we had known beforehand we could have informed the students better, as it was the relief was minimal," said Kenyon. "As it was the table only serviced 80 to 90 students."

Another of the gripe fest suggestions was to have a financial aid flow chart. The flow chart informs students of the right steps to take in order to get their paperwork completed and receive their disbursements in a timely manner. The chart was implemented at the beginning of this semester and seems to have had a positive impact on the process. Students can see the process written out and therefore have a better understanding of said process.

A suggestion that has not yet been addressed is the need for a flyer listing the top ten questions students usually have, or mistakes students usually make. Kenyon feels, "The City College paperwork [a student must fill out] contains the most problems. The FA office also changed the Ability of Benefit Status forms to make them easier to understand.

A problem with filing out Stafford loan paperwork was also addressed by the grip fests. The financial aid office has complete control in determining whether or not a student under 24-years-old will be considered an independent student or a dependent one. Kenyon feels, "[Mira Sinco] is blanketing everyone under the age of 24 as being a dependent student." Federal guidelines also "blanket" everyone under 24 as a dependent. The problem is: not everyone under the age of 24 still lives with their parents. Those involved feel the FA office should look at each student on a case by case basis in order to make an accurate determination of their status.

One of the main problem students have had with financial aid is the time it takes to receive a check. "It took two years for them to accept my application and just yesterday [March 3rd] I finally received my check for both last semester and the current one," said engineering technology student Mike Kimball, 37. Kimball also noticed, "The FA office will not take a California ID as proof [of residence], they need a valid driver’s license. What I see is other students won’t be as adept at going through the process as I am." Despite Kimball’s complaints, Kenyon said disbursement checks went out on time and most students received them within the first week of classes.

The financial aid office is planning a large move in order to implement necessary changes and reduce problems most students have. The move planned for June or July of this year is on time. One change that will come with the move is an upgrade of the software system the FA office currently uses. The new software, called Banner, has been installed on the machines and an independent consultant will be in the FA office in approximately one month to de-bug the new system and to train all FA employees to use the software.

The office will be moved to a significantly larger space in Cloud Hall. "I have expanded the allocation of space in Cloud Hall," said Day. The new office will be equipped with current technology as well as more space to work in. The office will also be adding at least one more staff member to help students.

In addition to a larger office, the Chancellor has allotted an entire classroom for conversion into a space specifically for student use. The room will be located directly across from the new FA office and will be staffed by either a student or a lab aide. "What we’ve done is turned one of the classrooms into a student information room so students will have access to financial aid tools," said Day. The student information room will include cubicles, chairs and desks where students can fill out forms or wait for appointments.

The room will also contain a TV and VCR so students will be able to view instructional videos about the financial aid process. The Chancellor adds, "There will be computers to use and tables set up with all the necessary paperwork to keep students informed about their "right to know issues" Students will be able to access their own FA records on the computers to see where their paperwork is and when disbursements can be expected.

In the meantime Day says, "we are addressing the other issues."

As the financial aid process, software and space become more updated the problems may cease to exist; there are still a few personnel problems that have not been addressed, however. The move will certainly create more space and the adding of another worker may help shorten historically long lines. The student information center may also be a great asset: freeing students of the long lines and helping to inform them in alternate ways. For any FA questions contact the financial aid office on campus at 239-3576 or Dean Mira Sinco at 239-3005.

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This page last updated 03/10/99.

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