When a student who shall remain nameless started at Lone Star College last year, he heard rumors about problems in the financial aid office: botched paperwork, delayed disbursement, and even random cancelations of people's financial aid. Then it happened to him.
First, his application got held up when the lady processing it forgot to update his status from "initiated" to "complete." When he called to sort out the issue, she assured him it was an easy fix, but whatever she did got his aid canceled. He had to resubmit everything, and now he's on financial thin ice waiting for money behind deadline.
That kind of story isn't uncommon among the 52 percent of Lone Star students who receive financial aid of some kind. Multiple kids I talked to mentioned issues with the financial aid office, even though they usually seemed hesitant to say anything bad about the college.
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Carolyn Wade, dean of student support, blamed most of these complaints on misunderstandings or student errors, though she admitted to occasional mistakes that every college experiences. She said that physical checks distributing funds don't necessarily arrive on the "anticipated date," which students might mistake for a delayed disbursement. But I also heard about delayed disbursements involving direct deposits, which do have a firm date when they're supposed to go through.
Wade also told me that some students had their financial aid canceled because they weren't taking enough credit hours to qualify. But others fell victim to the office's lunatic computer when it wrongly pulled their funding under the impression that they weren't taking enough hours, when they actually were. Another source who handles student complaints told me that computer glitch has affected over 6,000 students, though I can't verify that number.
Like everyone at the financial aid office, Wade seemed well-intentioned and very willing to help. In fact, today she was working on funneling grants to a student whose loan didn't make it through processing - though that obviously doesn't speak to the office's competence. Even the nameless student at the top of the article wasn't angry with anyone in the financial aid office, just frustrated by the unnecessary complications. He said he's gone to four other colleges and never experienced anything like this before.