Financial aid issues prompt social complaints

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A student threatened to file a complaint against Delta College over financial aid difficulties. Screenshot from Facebook.
A student threatened to file a complaint against Delta College over financial aid difficulties. Screenshot from Facebook.

Some Delta College students have been having a difficult time receiving financial aid for the Spring 2020 semester due to the implementation of the MyDelta system.

Issues with the disbursement of financial aid first surfaced at the beginning of the Fall 2019 semester, during the system’s initial rollout.

One of the students who has not yet received financial aid is Leilani Valera. She and other students have posted their issues in a 5,200-plus member Facebook group where Delta College students communicate.

Valera is entering her last semester as a Delta student and said she has dealt with added pressure because of the  unresolved issues. 

Valera said she didn’t feel she was getting enough assistance from the office of Financial Aid, Scholarships and Veterans Services.

“It was difficult getting a hold of my Financial Aid Specialist about the concerns I had with my financial aid,” Valera said. “He hadn’t been returning my calls or emails since October 2019. I had to call him from the school’s office phone earlier this week to get in touch with him.”

Once Valera consulted her Financial Aid Specialist, she found out that grants she had previously been awarded were being taken away due to complications in the new system yet to be resolved. This placed a burden on Valera.

“I am a single mother on a limited income, so I rely on financial aid to pay for my course materials and such,” she said. “I honestly don’t know how I’m going to pay for the materials for my late-starting classes.”

Alex Breitler, the Director of Marketing, Communications and Outreach, said his department tries their best to respond to students in a timely manner as financial aid questions come in via social media or email.

However, the most they can do is answer general questions about the process and help students get into contact with their Financial Aid Specialists.

“We are definitely open to suggestions from students on how to better communicate what’s going on, and welcome any feedback,” Breitler said. “Financial aid disbursements are occurring, but we recognize that some students have been impacted by the challenges we’ve had with the new system, and we always want to improve our communication practices.”

Valera is displeased with the institution’s handling of the situation overall.

“It’s unfair that the students have to suffer for the decision of the school to implement a new system when they don’t fully know how to run it,” she said.

First-year student Ashley Harrington also said she had trouble connecting to her specialist. For months, her calls and emails went ignored, she said.

“When I finally did get ahold of my specialist, she said she hadn’t filed my FAFSA because she needed my transcripts,” Harrington said. “When I pointed out I was a new student and this was my first semester at Delta, she said, ‘Oh, okay. I’ll file this and you’ll have your aid by Friday.’ The office had been sitting on my completed FAFSA for months, they just didn’t file it.”

According to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website, transcripts are not needed to file an application.

After experiencing the issues, Harrington filed a formal inquiry against the office of Financial Aid, Scholarships and Veterans Services with the FAFSA board.

“I felt that it was necessary to reach out to the board because so many students are relying on these funds to move forward with their education,” she said. “Books aren’t cheap. Parking passes aren’t cheap. They’re holding onto these funds when there are students who really need them.”

Melony Stenson, another first-year student, said the lack of communication between her and her specialist is frustrating.

“My Financial Aid Specialist isn’t communicating with me at all,” she said. “I call daily, at least four to five times per day, with no answer. Leaving voicemails is pointless because calls don’t get returned. Emails are the same. No replies.”

She said specialists should make a greater effort to be available.

“As students, we’re given deadlines to have things turned in or to submit additional information,” Stenson said. “They’re supposed to help us, or at the very least keep some sort of communication.”

Stenson, who just began her second semester at Delta, said this ordeal has turned her off to the institution.

“It’s quite obvious there are several things they need to work out,” she said.