University identifies issues in financial aid logistics during first weeks of semester
Students wait in line to receive a ticket number before being assisted at the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid on the first day of school, Aug. 21.
Even before finding classes or getting school supplies, college students are met with the responsibility of financing school, and often could use a helping hand throughout that process.
Every year the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid, located in the Administration building on the University of Arizona's main campus, receives a large influx of students seeking guidance on how to pay for school.
“The start of school is always a stressful time; you want to make sure you've done everything right,” said Kasey Urquidez, vice president for enrollment management. “We want to make sure we have enough people employed because the financial aspect of going to college is real and can be stressful, so we want to make sure students have the support they need to get the answers they need.”
The 2016-2017 academic school year was the last year certain schools were allowed a quality assurance program, according to Urquidez. The quality assurance program authorized schools to establish their own criteria for how school documents are verified and processed. This year, no school has the opportunity to do so, therefore there is a weightier process for verification of documents that needs to happen in order for students to receive aid.
“At this point we are analyzing our priorities and trying to do the best we can to serve our students,” said Rebekah Salcedo, director at the financial aid office. “Students' financial aid is critical to their success, we need to help alleviate their concerns about what's going on with their financial aid so they can focus on school and not worry about their financial aid.”
Throughout the start of the semester, the financial aid office has been trying a number of things to help students who walk in the office. These efforts include student affairs enrollment team-members answering questions in the lobby while students wait in line. Oftentimes, students don't have to wait for their number to be called and just need quick questions answered, according to Urquidez.
The Student Union, the Alumni Association and the UA Bookstore are also teaming up during the busy initial weeks of the semester and offering snacks and prizes while students wait for financial aid help.
“It’s important we get the help we need because it's where students pay for their school and a lot of times if they have issues, which they most often do because it's complicated... they get somewhere they can get help,” said Britney Levetan, a senior in communications. “For me personally, the whole process itself was complicated but the office was a great help to me.”
Urquidez said the financial aid office is interested in adding certain features in the future, such as offering an improved and user-friendly phone system, as well as instant chat features where students or parents can have confidential conversations about financial aid, or a system in which callers don't have to wait on hold and can receive a call back during the day.
“We’d love to get to a place where we have that type of system, so that's something that we're working towards so we can have that in the future,” Urquidez said. “We’ve tried to implement those things without having the technology and systems this year, but I hope that in the future we have some of those other things to be able to serve the student population in an even better customer service manner.”
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