Wednesday, September 26, 2012

WSU works through financial aid backlog

By Kelcie Moseley, Moscow-Pullman Daily News
     Chairs lining the hallway outside Washington State University's financial aid office were filled with students waiting for their turn at the window Tuesday afternoon. Most looked bored as they waited with phones in hand or computers in their laps. Some were there for the second or third time in a week.
     After a glitch in WSU's new software caused a financial aid backlog the first week of school that affected about 10,000 students, university officials have been working to catch up. As of Monday evening, about $104 million in aid had been distributed to 14,931 students. Roughly 2,000 are still waiting for their full amount of money, according to Darin Watkins, executive director of external communications. More...     Victoria Barth, a junior double major at WSU, was one of those in line on Tuesday. She had to leave one of her two jobs early to get to the financial aid office, where she's trying to sort through an error that canceled half of her semester aid.
     "The good news is even though it sucks and sitting in line sucks, they're really nice and they try really hard to help, so it should be fixed soon," Barth said.
     Barth said she applied for a private loan in hopes she would receive it faster, but so far it has been even more of a hassle. And while the university has waived all late fees surrounding tuition payments, it is still having an effect on her finances.
     "It's just car insurance and car payments and things like that are sucking up all of my money," she said, "so I'm having to pull from savings to stay afloat."
     Barth said she has tried to schedule her visits to financial aid around when she thinks they will be less busy, but they are swamped every time.
     "I kind of feel for the financial aid office, because I don't think they expected any of this to happen. And they're probably way more stressed out than the students are trying to make sure everyone gets their money," Barth said.
     Lori Ennis also stood in line with her two daughters, who are sophomores this year. She said so far it has been nothing but a waiting game for them, and she has been providing them money for rent, groceries and other living expenses. But tuition is still outstanding until they receive their aid.
     "We've never used financial aid before, so when you're new at something like this and it's not coming through we just kind of keep thinking we've done something wrong," Ennis said.
     She said they have been told everything looks fine with their information and status, and they just have to keep waiting. But navigating the website has also been a challenge.
     "Everything is in about four-point type, and you can't find it and it doesn't make any sense," she said. "And I'm pretty computer savvy, so it's kind of been frustrating."
     Some students who have not received their aid yet are part of a group waiting for it to be processed manually, Watkins said. A particular set of grants was taking 15 minutes for each one because only two people were available to work on them.
     "As a result, we've assigned new staff, we've hired some temps, we've used some folks from data input for it, and every day we're moving up some percentage points," Watkins said.
     The Zzusis software that glitched uses the Oracle database as its infrastructure. Watkins said Oracle consultants visited campus to look for any system-wide issues that could cause the glitch to happen again, but found none.
     The goal, according to Watkins, is still to have the situation resolved by mid-October. Short-term, interest-free loans are available to students from the financial aid office, and the Dean of Students office also has a loan program that provides loans of up to $500.
     "We're getting there, but we still have a distance to go," Watkins said.

22 comments:

  1. I think it should be spelled out how our students can get short-term interest free loans. The entire situation is inexcusable.

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    1. I agree and the key phrase here is "interest-free." What a slap in the face to actually offer help to students and charge them for it. A glitch in the new software, really? I'd like to know exactly how that happened, wouldn't you?

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    2. Emily Carstens NamieOctober 8, 2012 at 3:52 PM

      I think you are mistaken, the school did not charge anything, hence the phrase "interest free". There was absolutely NO charge to students for the temporary loan. All I did was call financial aid and they emailed me all the paper work. They had it filled out and all I had to do was sign it and fax it back. I had the money direct deposited in my bank within 24 hours of sending my fax.

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  2. I am one of the 2000. Horrible horrible horrible!. I am a single mother of two teenage daughters in the distance degree program. I can't even pay for gas to go to Pullman to stand in line. This is absurd.

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  3. For those who were only eligible for loans, not actual aid, which haven't been disbursed, are they/we paying interest on the funds that we don't have yet? The Master Promissory Note says unsub loans begin accruing from date of disbursement, and zzusis has the approximate date listed as early August, but surely the Department of Education didn't plan on this "glitch."

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  4. The wait for this is ridiculous. I am also a single mom who expected to have the money when I was told back in August and I am still waiting. If you can't get everyone the money they are awaiting in a timely fashion then hire more people. Maybe we should be getting some interest on the money we are all waiting for??? Some sort of compensation is definitely in order. INEXCUSABLE is right!

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  5. This is ridiculous! I keep getting told "in a week" then it was "by October 1st" now it's "mid-October I was a student on campus but had to transfer to online classes and move my son home to my parents house in the Seattle area because I couldn't afford food, insurance, electricity and other expenses. To top it off he has special needs and I had to give up (and pay 2 weeks for short notice) a really qualified childcare person to move. Sad. I really wish I would have went to Western :-(

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  6. I agree this whole financial aid debacle is inexcusable. It seems as though I'm finally just now even seeing any information about this and the reports make it look like some people are getting their aid. I called financial aid sometime ago & yes they are polite but really don't have any information to give out either. I too am a single mother in the distance degree program; I had to borrow money last month for rent. While going to school is supposed to be an empowering experience this is more than leaving me and my family feely absolutely destitute. I’m a great budgeter but after enrolling two teenagers in high school, getting school clothes, and paying for my own books my savings were depleted and I was counting on this. Being at a distance feels like we are forgotten even more! We need better answers!

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  7. It seems like everyone is tired and frustrated and I know times are hard. Be patient with the office I'm sure that they are aware of how important these funds are to people and are doing everything they can. Don't make things worse for them give them your understanding and patience to make things right. I am also a student waiting for funds but it's not going to do me any could complaining about it.

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    1. They need to stop giving the run-around then and stop continually telling us "in a week", "oh you'll have it by the end of next week"... Stop telling us what we want to hear, tell us the truth and the further disappointment week after week will probably subside a little and we may not be as frustrated. If we are told we are to have our aid a week before school starts, I expect to have it. That is in fact the purpose of aid, right?!?!

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  8. I am also part of the 2000. Every time I tried to call, I was on hold for over an hour before finally hanging up. I called right when they opened at 8am and was still on hold for 20 minutes. Then the financial aid officer was huffy with me. I understand they are stressed, but this is ridiculous.

    At least if they were honest from the beginning I could have planned better. It's the 'in a week' responses that are so frustrating. If there are thousands of students, there is no way they will have it done in a week. Honesty and integrity go hand-in-hand.

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  9. I also am still waiting.....it won't do me any good to worry about something I have no control over. I need the money as well but I can't let myself stress out over it because it won't do my health any good :).....

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    1. Emily Carstens NamieOctober 8, 2012 at 4:05 PM

      If you haven't gotten your aid yet maybe you should get the no fee loan. I think you can get up to $2000 within a few days

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  10. Here's a story of one student's troubles from the Daily Evergreen. At the end is an update from the university that says $107 million in financial aid has been disbursed.

    http://dailyevergreen.wsu.edu/read/Financial-hardships-smother-WSU-student

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  11. This has been awful. I had to drop one course online as the instructor allowed no allowances of materials that could not be purchased on time. I was kind and patient to the Fin aid counselor and she was rude rude rude.

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  12. I don't think they realize what a burden this has put on us. It is really hard to deal with when you expect this money to pay for books, living, etc. I am pretty bummed at how this has been handled, I have almost finished 3 classes for this quarter already and still not a glimmer of hope in sight. I have had to pay for all the proctoring fees and books out of my own pocket. As a single parent this is extremely difficult.Booo

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  13. I am wondering if we will face the same issues next semester. Not much hope in this Cougs heart. I'm still playing catch up from having to pick and choose which books to buy, finally getting the last one I needed 5 weeks into the semester. Not cool at all, and the worst part is the way the sitation is continuing to be handled. Rather than give honest, consistant answers we just keep getting put off week by week. In the mean time, another month of rent is due and no money for it in sight.

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  14. I'm a new WSU student. I was promised $2800 per semester in grants and I received word from financial aid that I'm receiving a measly $750 per semester. Fin Aid emailed me last night that I was going to receive the $750 last night but I didn't receive the money. I'm deeply disappointed in WSU. I'm transferring next semester to a school that will take care of me.

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  15. If it's any help, I wanted to let you guys know that I recieved most of my aid today (Oct 8th) so it looks like things are moving slowly along. I am really hoping things will be fixed in time for next semester...

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  16. Emily Carstens NamieOctober 8, 2012 at 4:32 PM

    Well my financial aid debacle finally got straightened out and finally got some $$....the bill collectors will be so happy! I am happy though because now I get to have heat and water and food! Yeah! On a more serious note though, WSU was absolutely wonderful (with the exception of one jerk work study student in fin aid) but I love my school. I feel they went above and beyond in handing this fiasco; waiving late fees, giving out no fee temp loans and it even looks like they refunded some of my fees. I heart WSU

    While this has been frustrating to say it is inexcusable is excessive. Mistakes happen and computers are not infallible. I recommend that students who depend on financial aid to buy books set aside $$ for books and supplies out of the current aid for the next semester. I set aside $500 from my spring semester to buy the books for the fall. By doing this I was able to have my books and not worry too awful much about other bills, especially with the no fee loan.

    Oh I also wanted to put a shout out to J.J. Oliver, one of the financial aid staff who helped me. He was WONDERFUL and helpful.

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  17. I took the short-term loan; hoever to date, still zero money has been received from Financial Aid. I keep getting told they are working on it from the people on the phone...I began classes back on August 21 as an online studeent. The instructors were not very understaanding, infact I had one instructor say she was in the same boat because she is persuing her Masters (but compassion was lacking). It has been 54 days since MY classes started. I have never had this issue at any community college, university, or private university. It makes me extremely worried about how they handle other departments as a new student to WSU.

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  18. Emily, if your instructor is not working with you then you should consider disussing this with the Dean of Student's office. All of my instructors have been very understanding and I know at least one of them is a student himself. Hang in there!

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