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.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

WSU arts journal seeks submissions

landscapes logoWSU’s annual undergraduate literary and arts journal, LandEscapes, is accepting submissions for 2013 publication.

The journal publishes fiction, nonfiction, poetry, art, photography, animation, music, graphic novels, screenplays, and any other original work.

The deadline is Nov. 18. Here’s the submissions link.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Big turnout expected for Seattle party

paw cropMore than 140 people have already RSVP’d for our Seattle party at 4:30 p.m. this Saturday.

But the deadline to sign up is Wednesday, so if you want to enjoy  free food, fun socializing and cool giveaways--including the coveted foam paws--let us know soon.

More information, and a registration link is on the ASWSU-Online events page.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Congrats to our honor roll students

Honor RollThe Summer 2012 President’s Honor Roll was just posted.

“This award is especially noteworthy because of the world-class caliber of faculty who teach here and their high expectations of their students,” says the president’s office.

Friday, September 14, 2012

President suspends tuition late fees

Due to financial aid delays, WSU President Elson S. Floyd suspends tuition late fees for the rest of the semester. Here's an update.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Financial aid "highest priority"

WSU President Elson S. Floyd says finishing financial aid distribution is University's "highest priority." See the full column here.

Bioethics certificate covers tough issues

Bill Kabasenche horizontalA lesbian couple wants a baby genetically related to both of them. They’re considering using sperm from one woman’s brother. He just turned 18. Should they ask him?

The situation involved the relative of a WSU student. The student asked Bill Kabasenche, WSU assistant professor of philosophy, for advice. He saw a “wild conglomeration” of issues:

  • Is the brother old enough to give informed consent?
  • Is he old enough to become a father?
  • What responsibilities would he have?
  • Why is it important to have genetically related kids?
  • If genetics are that important, then they’d equally important to the brother, which means he’d have significant responsibilities.
  • Is parenthood fundamentally a relationship of love or of biology?
  • Is the couple using the baby as an instrument to validate the relationship?
  • If people can design their babies, does that replace unconditional love with a sense of comparison shopping?

Kabasenche’s specialty is bioethics. He teaches several courses on the topic and is co-director of the ethics committee at Pullman Regional Hospital. He’s also the force behind WSU’s new online graduate certificate in bioethics.

“The first goal of the certificate is to create sensitivity to ethical questions,” he said. “The second is to give people tools that will help them articulate ethical issues, which is different than just saying, ‘This just doesn’t feel right.’ Being able to articulate it can put teeth behind people’s misgivings.”

The third goal, he said, is to teach students how to evaluate competing ethical concepts. “That gives people in the field more sophistication in their ability to think through these issues.”

More...

Kabasenche used all three approaches in talking to the worried student. “She latched on to some of those things and said, ‘Yeah, actually that’s what’s been bothering me,’ ” he said. She left his office prepared to have a constructive talk with her family.

“I don’t know what they ultimately decided,” Kabasenche said. “The important thing is that they had the best possible ethical foundation for that decision.”

Since the certificate went fully online in spring 2012, prospective students across the country have been sending Kabasenche “inquisitive emails.” Some come from students in WSU’s Professional Science Masters program, but most are from people outside WSU, including workers at biotechnology labs and a doctor who teaches at a university.

“The certificate opens up new opportunities for people working in health care and biotech industries,” he said. “This is a way you can demonstrate on paper that you have training.”

Justin Caouette took Kabasenche’s on-campus courses to earn his WSU bioethics certificate in 2010. He’s now working on his Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Calgary.

“The program enhanced my background and skill set,” he said. “It opened doors to health-related employment in areas such as administration, public policy, teaching, research, hospital ethics committee and institutional review board service, and legal work.”

Caouette has been chosen to develop an online bioethics program for Bristol Community College in Fall River, Mass. “I've been told that the certificate in bioethics has set me apart from other well-educated applicants,” he said.

Kabasenche sees increased demand for that kind of education. Advances in neuroscience are raising a host of issues involving privacy, responsibility, and autonomy. Advances in genetics create questions about reproductive ethics—should you test embryos?—and psychoactive drugs bring discussions of identity: Who is the real you?

“There are definitely more questions than answers,” he said. “The progress comes in an increasingly clear understanding of what the problems are.”

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Deadline near for ticket discounts

DSC_8911The deadline is fast approaching to get discount tickets for the WSU vs. Oregon game Sept. 29 at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field. WSU Online students can save $10 a ticket if they buy them before midnight Sept. 9.

And, if you’re going to the game, stop by our party beforehand. It’s at the hotel next to the stadium. More information is on the ASWSU-Online website.

In other news, if you are planning to graduate this December, you’ll need to contact Cassandra Hernandez at 800-222-4978 to get an application.

If you are planning to graduate in May 2013 or later, the graduation application should be online by then.