What Has 1 Arm, 1 Leg and No Money?
Just about all of us, as college students in this day and age, have trouble handling all the finances involved with college. I think we can all agree that it is hard to get through college without financial help from relatives, especially when we’re buying $200 books that we’ll only use for one semester and often not at all. Fortunately for us, we have the financial aid office, and now we don’t all have to spend an arm and a leg to put more weight in our school bags.
The few employees that work at the Financial Aid booth are friendly and helpful in nearly all manners pertaining to their job and generally tend to be well informed on the financial aid process. If there is a time when they can’t help, then they might send you over to Disbursement, or they will get a manager that has a better understanding of what is actually going on. Lines for the booth are usually non-existent so waiting in them should not be a problem for the student on the run, making it one of the few offices that you don’t have to suffer through for what feels like all eternity waiting. Ms Lisa Seale, the current Director of the Financial Aid Department is a bright energetic individual who loves her job and enjoys “working with people” and “helping students”
The Purpose of the Financial Aid department is to provide a link between the Government issued FAFSA and the students attending AWC. The way the financial aid system works is actually very simple, and yet somehow amazingly convoluted at the same time. When an applicant for a scholarship gets accepted for federal student aid, there is a check sent to the college or university of their choosing. When this check reaches the college, it is sent to the Financial Aid Department where it will be processed and cataloged. They will subtract the students tuition from however much was in that check, marking up if there is any remaining money, and then transferred to the Disbursement Office. Disbursement is the place that actually handles the money, paying the tuition with the check, and they then mail out the student’s leftover scholarship money to their residence, or move it to the bookstore for further spending. Basically, students fill out the FAFSA, and based on their circumstances they obtain a certain amount of money from the Pell Grant to try to cover as much of the costs as they can. We’ve been through this.
And How Does that Make You Feel?
We’ve found that the opinions of students here at AWC about the way our school works with this system differ widely, mostly about whether it is making life better for students or if it’s just a nuisance. Some have had no dealings with it, so they really do not care about it one way or the other, while other students feel that they don’t do enough to reach out and try to get in contact with students about whether their check has come in, or if they’re going to have to pay tuition out of their own pocket. Many others feel that they don’t care about improvement at all- and have no interest in picking up the phone to give out some help to someone in dire need. One student, Ana Espinoza, feels that some improvements could be made, but that the system isn’t bad and that she would be in some very deep trouble if that system wasn’t in place. Her experience with the financial aid process was shaky, but she, like many students, still remain grateful for the assistance. “If it wasn’t for the financial aid, I’d probably have to get a job, and then I wouldn’t be able to focus on my schoolwork, and I’d hardly take any credits,” she said. She, like many students, has to pay her entire way through college by herself, and she wasn’t exactly happy at the sight of losing a scholarship. On the other hand, she doesn’t blame the office because she simply wasn’t aware that each person could only have one institutional scholarship. Tsk, tsk, tsk.
At this point, I think it goes without saying that one of the benefits is getting enough money to not have to work for 2 years before starting a semester; Other than that, the department does sere its purpose in making it easier for students to understand the outcome of their FAFSA aas well as their other scholarships and grants to determine whether or not they have enough for college and how much more they’ll need. Furthermore, all of the students that were interviewed claimed that relatives that had transferred to other schools, like the University of Arizona, had more trouble getting their financial aid processed, implying that the financial aid department here might not be as unorganized as most people tend to think. There are also other forms of financial aid, such as institutional scholarships, club scholarships and work-study, all of which are available here at AWC.
A big hindrance is the lack of communications between the offices of the department, often leaving a student’s file sitting to gather dust, causing its’ student to panic. When they should send a file over to Disbursement so that the tuition can be paid or for the student to get what’s left, they don’t bother to send it over for a week or so, or until the student shows up and has to ask them to transfer it over. Another shortcoming is their lack of answering phone calls. Yep, phone calls. Unless a student has received an email telling them to call, there’s almost no chance they will be able to get through for help, except by going to AWC in person. The student we interviewed before, Ana Espinoza, told us about her experience with this, and described it as having given her “a heart attack or two”.
And The Ugly…? No.
Despite the immensely differing opinions about AWC’s financial aid department, we believe the department isn’t half bad. They may have their shortcomings, but you can rely on them to get the aid processed and your wallet spared. With that said, it also wouldn’t be half bad if we could rely on them to pick up the phone once in a while, but hey, it looks like we get to use the arm and leg they save us to go down there and get our stuff straightened out.
Check out AWC’s Financial Aid Info here!
or, click here for the Federal Student Aid Website