Two days ago, after a foolishly attempted all-nighter (two law midterms required it), I was reaching the brink of my sanity at 4:30 a.m. when I found myself at the Web Portal to check on the status of my financial aid.
Unsurprisingly, I will be getting none for the 2006-07 school year; my parents make too much money for me to receive aid from the government for my education, which is a laughable idea at best. The dreaded Free Application for Federal Student Aid determines an estimated family contribution, an amount that I have become increasingly sure is gleefully pulled out of thin air. The application does not take into account, for instance, car or home loan payments (my mother and father have three); personal goodwill done by the family (in this case, a teenage boy that my parents have taken in and pay for the care of); and, last but not least, the bizarre idea that many students will be paying for their education themselves in the long run, and so why should their parents’ income figure into anything?
The flaws are everywhere in the system, but I have grown to accept them as yet another roadblock on my way to getting a degree, something merely to be endured. I have not, however, accepted the flaws in CSUN’s Financial Aid department.
After seeing the lack of financial award, I went to the site for CSUN Financial Aid to see if I could once again be amused by an inane message that I had seen nearly a year ago when I had been in a similar position. At that time, information on the site stated that even if a student had been screwed by FAFSA’s ruling on the family’s financial status, there was still hope, and that I shouldn’t give up my “dream” of attending the school. Immensely curious, I had called the financial aid office and spoke with several individuals, each more oblivious and helpless than the last; none had any idea as to how I could get around the problem of my family’s estimated contribution, something that distressed me.
Now, however, the department has even abandoned hopeful ideas such as the one that used to be on its website; that particular bit of faux sincerity and concern has vanished from the site, as has any information regarding who students can talk to if they have no hope of paying for their education after a notice of a non-existent financial aid award.
Call me hopelessly naive, but I had foolishly figured that the school would want to try and help every student whose finances at CSUN suffered gaps as a result of bizarre calculations from the federal government in the FAFSA. After all, the more students who are able to come to CSUN, the more money is available for important aspects of the school-you know, athletics. If the financial Aid Department-and, more importantly, CSUN-cannot be bothered to help students who face difficulties in getting government aid, enrollment will drop quickly; even more so, one could say, than when the school drops students over tuition payments.
A visit to financial aid gets me a dead-eyed individual who advises getting a scholarship. Never mind the fact that one decent-sized scholarship will just barely pay my tuition, especially with the fee increase this fall. The school shouldn’t be put in charge of paying for everyone’s education in full, but individualized concern and counseling about what students can do after the government reduces or deletes their aid is not too much to ask.
I take comfort in the fact that I don’t have to drop out of school or, far worse, resort to unhelpful advice at the CSUN’s Financial Aid office now; I have a backup plan where I’ll be in debt to my parents, rather than the government, for the next decade.
But what help will CSUN offer other students? Not much, evidently.
Lauren Robeson can be reached at Lauren.Robeson.email@example.com.