As I listened anxiously to the financial aid representative on the other end of the phone line, all I could think was “I need to buy books, pay for my parking permit, get money for gas, pay for day care? and there’s no way I’ll be able to afford it.”
In April, I had everything planned out. I was going to attend summer school to ensure my Spring 2007 graduation and allocate some of my 2006-2007 financial aid to pay for it. The money I had saved up was enough to pay for my living expenses through summer school. Everything was going to work.
But then, I was disenrolled from my summer classes. Even though I had turned in my financial aid academic plan before the deadline, summer school fees were due the day before CSUN policy is to disenroll students if they do not pay their fees right away. No big deal, I thought. I could just re-enroll now that I’ve turned in my academic plan. After all, they put that exempting little indicator on my account that said I could be enrolled without having to pay for tuition right away and everything will be just fine.
Of course by that time, I had a hold on my account for non-payment of fees. The financial aid representative told me to go to cash services and tell them I had an indicator that should be sufficient to remove my hold and allow me to re-enroll. But apparently, CSUN policy also states that a student who has been previously disenrolled (regardless of the circumstances) must pay the required fees up front in order for the hold to be removed. It didn’t matter that I had the indicator on my account. I had to pay the $894 for my five units up front if in order to get back into my classes. As for the indicator, it became completely useless. I had no choice but to give cash services the check for $894, leaving my checking account balance at virtually nothing.
“I’m sorry,” said the financial aid representative when I called and asked if there was anything they could do. “Good luck, though.”
Financial aid checks will not be mailed out until the week of July 17, she said, which happens to coincide with the end of my summer session. That check would be my only form of reimbursement. Although I genuinely appreciate the sincere sympathy of those who dictate my financial state as a college student, it is clear I have become yet another victim of the bureaucracy better known as CSUN policy.
There are obvious reasons why financial aid is offered and why students apply for it. It gives students the opportunity to get a quality education, regardless of financial status. It helps students pay for living expenses associated with attending school. It gives students the ability to work part-time instead of full-time so they can focus on getting good grades. So, if a financial aid check is not going to arrive in my mailbox until days after the summer session is over, it does me absolutely no good as far as my immediate financial needs are concerned.
I’m not pointing the finger at the university financial aid department. I understand. The university doesn’t get the money from the federal government until a certain time, and until then, they have no money to give students.
CSUN is an exemplary school, with the best professors, excellent academic programs and a generally compassionate staff. However, the policies are somewhat twisted, which sometimes leaves the most important members of the university community, the students, at a great disadvantage.
Even staff members are sometimes shocked at what they can or cannot do to help students. When I told the financial aid representative that I was still forced to pay my fees, she was stunned.
“That’s what the indicator is for,” she said. Once again, there was no other option for me but to wait for my balance check in mid-July.
So now, here I am, a frustrated, overdrawn, stressed out student in search of a way to make ends meet. Because of a stupid formality, my ability to attend school is being jeopardized. One would think an institution such as CSUN that is designed specifically to help students receive an education, would have more suitable policies to fulfill its mission. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.