The financial aid counters in Bayramian Hall have closed since the transition from in-person to virtual instruction, and the once-bustling office has transferred student financial aid concerns to phone calls and email inquiries.
The traffic has since created a backlog.
“In August, we experienced a 400% increase in the number of emails we received for the month,” said Linda Brignoni, director of the Financial Aid and Scholarship department.
During the Associated Students virtual event, “Creating Your Fall 2020 Experience” on Aug. 28, a student expressed concerns about the difficulty with contacting the financial aid office. William Watkins, the Vice President of Student Affairs, said that the amount of traffic has increased and the staff is working through the backlog.
According to Brignoni, the backlog increase is due to repeated calls and emails from students who have not yet received a response from the financial aid department. The goal is to respond to student inquiries within 24-48 hours.
Under the current circumstances, students can expect to receive an email response within seven days.
The financial aid help desk can only take a limited amount of calls. Once the maximum amount of calls enter the system, new callers cannot reach the office until the traffic queue slows down.
“It is not advisable to continue to call repeatedly, because every time you do that with the same question, it’s increasing the number of calls that we have to make our way through in the volume,” Watkins said. “The best thing to do is to call or send an email, that will place you in a queue and your call or email will be eventually responded to.”
The number of staff members does not match the volume of inquiries to the department. The department currently does not have enough staff to respond within 24 hours, according to Brignoni.
Student inquiries are split among the department’s eight staff members, who are all working remotely. Financial aid counselors have also stepped in to assist with answering calls and emails.
Over the past month, more than half of the staff worked a minimum of five overtime hours a week.
Brignoni was approved to hire two new positions at the department.
Brignoni expects the backlogged traffic to potentially continue for two to three weeks or more. She encourages students to log in to their portal and check the “To-Do List” under the “Financial Matters” tab to receive the latest financial aid update.
The department website also has tutorials and “how-to” guides to assist students in finding the information they need. More information can be found on the Financial Aid and Scholarship department website.