North Texas Daily

Students express problems with financial aid office

Students express problems with financial aid office

Students express problems with financial aid office
September 24
02:15 2015

Adalberto Toledo | Staff Writer

@adaltoledo29

The financial aid office at UNT serves about 27,000 students who receive some sort of financial assistance.

While some experience issues along the way, Senta Macaraeg, financial aid assistant director for customer service, said her office is constantly looking at ways to improve service to students.

Regardless, some students express their overall dissatisfaction for the way the financial aid office deals with students’ situations.

Of the 50 students North Texas Daily surveyed this week, 60 percent rated the financial aid office three out of five stars.

“The problem is I can’t get a hold of people,” biology senior John Thomas said. “They don’t know what’s being done. They thought my application was processed, but it really wasn’t.”

But Macaraeg said the office operates effectively.

“This year our office has been highly efficient in processing financial aid, with little-to-no backlog,” Macaraeg said.

Shannon Goodman, vice president for enrollment, said in an email the financial aid office is not perfect, but acknowledged their persistent pursuit for excellence.

“Out of over 27,000 students who receive financial aid, only 0.3 percent have raised complaints through formal channels,” Goodman said. “We also understand that not every complaint listing financial aid is actually a financial aid issue, nor is every complaint a resolvable issue.”

But that number does not include the informal complaints students expressed during interviews.

International studies senior and transfer student Alex Espinoza said while he found the financial aid office timely in responding to his request, the office had a difficult time keeping track of his documents.

“When I transferred here they said that I was missing stuff,” Espinoza said. “Even now they always say I’m missing stuff. Since they change people so often, no one knows anything, and I can’t speak with the same people.”

9-24Financial Aid

Of of the 50 students North Texas Daily surveyed, 60 percent rated the Financial Aid office three out of five stars. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

At the State of the University address last week, UNT President Neal Smatresk said administration managed to keep long processing times for financial aid down to five days or less.

Photojournalism senior Laura Jarriel had an issue she said took three and a half weeks to resolve.

Jarriel was awarded a $4,000 scholarship from the Mayborn School of Journalism, with which she was going to pay for rent and school supplies. Aside from the scholarship, Jarriel had additional money to pay for tuition.

When a student has an outstanding balance, available funds in a student’s account – such as scholarships, loans and grants – are used to fulfill that balance. So, in Jarriel’s case, her scholarship was used for tuition, leaving her unable to pay for her other necessities.

“I’m disappointed with the lack of urgency from the department,” Jarriel said. “It took so long to sort the matter out and get in touch with someone who knew what they were talking about.”

Macaraeg said though it is difficult to classify challenges into one single issue, the office’s response is to work as expeditiously as possible to resolve it.

Jarriel said by the time information was made available to her, the semester was already underway, and she did not have the money she was counting on to pay rent and buy school supplies.

“I’m a photography student, and so the equipment for those classes alone is well into hundreds of dollars,” Jarriel said. “I understand that university financial stuff can take time to sort out, but leaving students without the ability to buy basic things like textbooks and supplies for the first month of school is pretty irresponsible.”

In these situations, Macaraeg recommends visiting with the financial aid office in person.

“Our staff is always open to helping students,” Macaraeg said. “We encourage students to visit with us – especially prior to financial aid deadlines – so that we can discuss their concerns and provide them the information they need.”

Jarriel said she visited with the office, and added this is not the first time she has had difficulties.

“Helping me find the money I needed didn’t seem like a priority to them at all,” Jarriel said. “I was never on hold very long or waiting in lines. It was more being told to call back the next day or next week because the office didn’t have any information.”

Featured Image: The UNT Financial Aid and Scholarships office is focusing on making the financial aid process quicker for the 27,000 they serve. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

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1 Comment

  1. Katie Ellis
    Katie Ellis September 24, 15:16

    Most people don’t take the extra time to complain through the proper channels. I just got my financial aid yesterday. It is September 24, and I have paid for everything out of pocket (books, rent, camera equipment, etc.) because I was waiting on financial aid for so long.

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