Financial Aid Question
September 1, 2011 10:05 AM   Subscribe

I returned school for a Master's Degree. I have quit my full time job and started classes, but my school still has not processed my financial aid. They have told me that it will not be processed in time for the fee deadline and I am in danger of being dropped from all my classes. What can I do?

My school received my FAFSA and all requisite forms at the beginning of July. I was assured by someone in my school's financial aid department that everything would be processed by the end of August. In short, they lied and I can't take out any unsubsidized or alternative loans until my school decides to process my aid. To make things more awesome, my school's financial aid department has now bluntly told me my aid won't be processed by the fee deadline, after which I will be dropped from classes for non payment. I have spoken to the Burser's Office, and the only alternative for keeping my classes is for me to pay part of my tuition and then hope my financial aid gets processed before my unpaid fees are turned over to a third party collection agency. Even if I do somehow manage to pay my entire tuition without loans, I won't have enough money to cover living expenses while I am in school. What can I do?
posted by firemonkey to Education (10 answers total)
Have you spoken to the front desk staff or your own financial aid "counselor" only, or have you escalated to the Assistant Director and Director of Financial Aid?

I would make sure you speak to one of the senior most people in the office.

And if that gets you nowhere, try contacting the Dean of Students office, and still yet, depending how involved with students the academic dean in your particular school is, contact them as well.

I know one of our academic deans rakes Fin Aid over the coals for stuff like this when a student in her program is in a similar situation.
posted by zizzle at 10:08 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is a familiar scenario with for-profit schools of various levels of dubiousness. If this is a for-profit school, google the heck out of it and you will likely find others who have had, or are having, the same problem. Perhaps they have advice or guidance for you.
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:18 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Can you get a credit card? I know it sounds awfully imprudent, but this happened to me the first semester of a new school and I just had to plop down that card. The key is too immediately pay it off when the aid comes in.

Second, when dealing with the multiple offices at (more than one major university), I found that it is safest to assume that no one knows what they are talking about, much less what may or may not be going on in another office.

If this is happening to you, and you have followed prescribed deadlines, it is happening to a lot of the student body. Are there rumors and disgruntled people about all fretting about getting kicked out of school and their classes dropped? No? That means all those people flipped out their first semester when they were told this would happen, then it didn't happen and the world was fine and now they don't care when the Financial Aid people tell them their money is coming through, its fine. (Mind you, I am not saying it is fine in your case, but I have done my share of running around to multiple offices flipping out, then my colleagues in class looking at me quizzically, because, wth are you flipping out, its always like this.)

Thirdly, I've said it here before, but sometimes the key is sitting your butt in someone important's office till its fixed. Don't go anywhere, don't come back later. Sit there till you get a good solution and that solution is hopefully documented and starting to be implemented.
posted by stormygrey at 10:20 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Speak to the secretary in your department. Departmental secretaries know everything and can usually give you excellent advice and steer you in the right direction about who to speak to.
posted by jeather at 10:22 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Contact your financial aid office and determine what is the exact delay in processing your financial aid. Are they waiting on verification paperwork? Is there some incorrect or missing ifnormation? Is there a problem with the financial aid actually disbursing?

What step are you actually on? Have you been awarded your loans? Have you signed your promissory notes?

It's in the financial aid office's best interest to process and push out your loan as fast as possible. Beuracracies are slow moving, so you may need to provide the grease.
posted by Think_Long at 10:28 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Does your school have a deferred payment plan? When I had a tuition issue at my university, they allowed me to sign up for deferred payment so that I only had to pay 1/3 of the quarter's tuition before it started. This enabled me to not be dropped from classes until the issue was sorted out.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:35 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

My son goes to a state university, and they expect financial aid to be behind schedule, so they offer a deferment to students who are eligible for financial aid (like, for instance, Bright Futures scholarships, as we are in FL). Basically, your fees are deferred for one month until you and the school know definitively what financial aid you have been granted.

I am honestly astonished your school cannot give you one month's grace period, provided you have turned in all your paperwork. Are you sure that the disconnect from, "yes, it will be in time" to "Nope, not going to happen," does not come from paperwork not being properly filled out in the first place? I ask because new guidelines require your FAFSA to be error-free and correlate exactly with your tax return beginning this year.

My school received my FAFSA and all requisite forms at the beginning of July.

This is really late, btw. End of May, beginning of June are the latest you want to get those things inf for Fall.

Have you spoken to the Dean of your college? An academic advisor? Someone with more clout that could intervene with the Bursar's office for you?

If not, I'd pay the partial fees the Bursar said you you could, on a credit card, and check on every aspect of your financial aid to make sure you have turned in everything in full and on time. If it then becomes obvious you will not be able to afford this and you have to drop, I would personally dispute the credit card charges.
posted by misha at 10:40 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Similar previously:
How can I make $4300 is a short period of time?

I would contact the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs and request help on what you can do. Do you have any documentation that they received the paperwork in July? Did you send it certified mail - or was the documentation sent in online?

If that office does not help you - talk to your adviser about your options. Based on the link above I am wondering if this is common place. Do not fall for their scare tactics, and do not pay tuition if you cannot afford it. Withdrawing for a semester is not the end of the world though the school will make it appear it is.
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 10:41 AM on September 1, 2011

I have spoken to the Burser's Office, and the only alternative for keeping my classes is for me to pay part of my tuition and then hope my financial aid gets processed before my unpaid fees are turned over to a third party collection agency.

Ugh, how did I not see this? Sorry for telling you something you already know.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:44 AM on September 1, 2011

N'thing contacting your Dean AND the Office of Student Affairs AND your advisor. July's actually really, really late in the game (I had to submit mine in February for this fall), but if that's what your school said was fine, then they should be dealing with it and not penalizing you. Continue to make some polite, documented noise.
posted by smirkette at 10:51 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

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