Living a Life of Chaos (kitashla) wrote in bad_service,
Living a Life of Chaos

Financial Aid Frustration

I'm sure I'm in the wrong in several places here, but I'm just so frustrated right now and I feel things SHOULD have been handled better.

I get Financial Aid for school. This is my last semester of available aid from the Pell Grant per the new 6 year limit. This isn't a problem as I graduate with two BAs this semester. I only needed two classes to graduate, so I tried to enroll for part time aid when I filled out my FAFSA, but it turns out that you can't do that anymore. I tried to call the Aid office at my school to ask about it and they told me the school would figure it out.

I got my award information and it was for significantly less than I normally get, so I assumed that they had determined I was only eligible for part time aid. (Normally, I get enough to pay for both classes and books. This time I barely got enough to just cover the classes and school fees, especially with the tuition increase this year.)

Of course, you know the old adage about ASSUME-ing:

The problem was that because this was my last semester of aid available and apparently this is a new thing for the school to deal with (according to the woman in the Financial Aid office) they would be holding my aid until they were sure they were going to get all of it. As a result, I had to pay for all my classes, fees, etc up front. As a married mother of 4, that was a bit stressful, but we'd been saving in anticipation that such a thing might happen, so we were okay in the short term.

About a month later I was finally awarded my financial aid. (Usually your aid is applied about two weeks before classes start and you are refunded the remainder by the second day of classes, so you can buy books and the $400 parking pass, etc.)

Fast forward to about a month ago and I get an email from the Financial Aid office saying that they just discovered that I am only enrolled part time and therefore I owe the school $650. Really? They just found out about it?! I know they run slow, but that's just absurd. I applied for Financial Aid in February. I enrolled in those two classes in March. They held my aid until September. I'd been taking those two classes since early August. And they just now discovered this??

And the upshot is that if I don't pay it off, I may not be able to graduate. They've already told me that they will hold my diplomas, transcripts and I will not be listed as having achieved a degree until I've paid it off. Not even a payment plan (which they do offer) will fix this. They told me that I might STILL be able to walk, but no one can tell me for sure.

I have worked my ass off to get to this point, I haven't slept in 4 years (because I can only do school work after I come home from work and the kids are in bed), heck...I've worked fast food for the last 4 years because it's the only thing that will work with my schedule. I've been working on two degrees at the same time, have maintained a 3.4/3.5 GPA nearly the entire time. Walking is kind of a big freaking deal for me!

The thing is, I don't mind paying the money at all. I've heard so many horror stories from other people concerning their aid that I feel pretty luck this is the first time I have EVER had an issue. But it's right before Christmas and that's a lot of money. And I get that they need to have some sort of incentive to make sure I pay. But I'm just kind of devastated over the whole thing and frustrated because I feel like this whole thing could have been handled in such a way that I'm not trying to decide whether it's more important to walk or make sure my kids have Christmas.

I'm sure I'm in the wrong in this all over the place, but I feel that there has GOT to be a more organized way to do this sort of thing that doesn't leave students scrambling.

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