It's all about perspective

College is a business. There is no way around it anymore. What astounds me is that higher education refuses to admit it.

Students are customers, and should be treated as such. A college education is quite possibly one of the most expensive “items” on the capitalist market and students are treated as so much idiotic garbage. I am 29 years old and have been treated like I am 12 twice now by my institution.

The first was when I tried to get a private loan because the private institution I attend is extremely expensive. The loan had to be verified by the school and initially it was. When I received the check it was mysteriously $3000.00 short. I immediately went to the financial aid office in a storm demanding an explanation. All that I received was treatment like I am a twelve year old in need of a spanking for dipping into dad’s wallet once too often, a guilt trip for asking for the extra money in the first place, and I was told, “well at least you won’t have to pay all that extra back.” All I could think was, “Did this jaba the hutt looking woman really just treat me like that?” These people’s mistake cost me: rent, utilities, and my car insurance for four months.

The second time was all in the last two weeks. I decided to transfer to the night school at my university. I enrolled in classes and they told me at the time I would not have to fill out an application or pay the applicant fee. I was traipsing through my online account checking for my end of semester grades before Christmas and found a discrepancy. On my financial aid profile it had originally listed four separate sources of funding: a Pell and Missouri Access grant, and an unsubsidized and subsidized Stafford loan. This profile has shown these sources and the amount they were awarding me has stayed the same since the end of Summer 07. Mysteriously enough, my profile now showed the grants (the ones I don’t have to pay back) gone. Just wiped away like they were never there.

Just to let the reader know, while I am trying to talk about my life here as candidly as possible, I do want to keep a modicum of privacy. Those who read my blog and know who I am will not need an explanation. Those who do not, will have to be alright when I have hidden names and exact monetary figures. I do this for my own protection as well as the school I attend. That being said, I am putting the last few weeks communications between myself and the financial aid office out there for everyone to see. Perhaps I overreacted, and if so, I will send a letter of apology to each and every person I might have offended. If not, I expect to get a letter of apology from each and every one of the people who blew me off just for the sake of saving a few precious seconds on their day.

I will admit I panicked slightly; especially after what happened with the private loan. I sent the blank financial aid office this email on Christmas:

To Whom it May Concern:

I was looking over my awards for next semester and I noticed that both my Pell and Access Missouri grants were removed from the financial aid tab in *deleted*. Why was this done and who do I need to speak to to get this rectified? If this has anything to do with changing to night classes I would also like a very detailed explanation why it was done without my notification. I can not imagine why this was done and would appreciate a quick response as there is not much time to get this matter solved.

Thank you,
*deleted*

On Dec 27, I received this response:

*hidden*,

I would not start panicking at this point. We have not awarded any evening students financial aid for spring at this point. We generally wait until the first part of January to begin this process. I don’t foresee any problems with your aid for the spring semester of 2008. Access Missouri can take a little longer since the state sends this money to the school. There are a couple of things I can think of to clarify and straighten out things otherwise you should be in good shape. Have you officially been admitted into the evening school? I don’t notice this in the computer but the holidays may have affected this and delayed the process. I also need to ask your new loan coordinator if your current loan application on file will work for spring. She is out until next week and I will let you know if something needs to be done. Please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions regarding your financial aid.

Thanks,
*hidden*

I learned three things from this response. 1: No one knew what was really going on since it was so close to the holidays, 2: the person that did know would not be in for another week, and 3: this person would let me know if there was some kind of hangup that was preventing me from getting my aid.

The first two points were what I expected, but at least someone was there and knew about the problem. What really bothered me was point three. My financial aid should not be affected, but something was obviously affecting it because someone took it off my profile. This is money guaranteed me by the federal and state governments. I would get the same amounts regardless of the school I went to (except for the Missouri Access grant, they will not pay for a theology degree) because I am poor. Being one of the most expensive in southwest Missouri, I just can’t wrap my head around there being a reason beyond the need to assert themselves as lord and master over my college career.

Still, I stewed over this for the next couple of days and on Dec 29, I sent this in response to the previous letter:

*hidden*,

Please forgive my bluntness, please understand this is not directed at you, but I am still attending *hidden* University am I not? What does it matter whether I have been “officially admitted” since I am transferring from day school to night? *hidden*’s is the most complicated and convoluted financial aid process I have ever been involved in. I have already been awarded the Pell and Access Missouri grants for the spring semester. My financial aid profile has shown this since the middle of summer! Even while I was on financial probation it still showed this money available to me. I am panicked because this is the second time *hidden* has attempted to take funds from me that have already been awarded. In the first instance *hidden* was successful and they arbitrarily reduced a private loan by $3000 and left me without the means to pay rent, utilities, and my auto insurance for the last three months. This was only after I was treated like an imbecilic child about the matter by your office.

I would actually be slightly less panicked about the whole situation if my entire profile was wiped clean for a fresh start. This would still make no sense, but seeing as only my grants were removed from my profile and not my loans it leaves me slightly suspicious of something seriously wrong. I understand that the person who handles these things is out until next week, but for some reason I feel the need to remind whoever it is that needs reminding that all of this money your office is juggling with has already been awarded to me. My financial aid profile should show a total award of roughly *hidden*. I will not be cheated out of money already promised me and figured into my budget again.

To make a long rant short, I want a very meticulous explanation of why money that has already been earmarked for me by the government since the middle of last summer for attendance to *hidden* University is being screwed with simply because I am taking night classes instead of day classes.

I look forward to a quick resolution to this matter.

Thank you,
*me*

I was a little prickish with this response. I was curt, but I believed I was still being polite. I probably wasn’t at this point, but in reality I didn’t really care. I had specific questions and they had yet to be answered.

On Jan 2, I received the following two emails. The first, from a loan coordinator, and the second, from a financial aid counselor/IT coordinator.

*me*,
*hidden* has shared your email with me since I am your new loan coordinator.

Because there is such a difference on how day school and night school students are awarded funds and because of the difference in cost of attendance, I have taken the time to reevaluate your loan status. I needed to be sure that you were still eligible for the loans you have already been granted. Taking into consideration the full Pell and Missouri Access grant, you are still eligible for the loan as it stands. I spoke with the registrars office, and they were in the process of updating your file to show admittance to the night school.

*hidden*
Loan Coordinator

Keep this one fresh in your mind, she says the registrar’s office was in the process of updating my profile, but says nothing about me having to do anything at this point but wait. Yet even after I asked for a “meticulous explanation” all I received at this point was “because there is such a difference.” Not one syllable about what that difference was or how it was applied. It feels extremely shady at this point.

This is the second email received on Jan 2:

Dear *me*,

As *hidden* stated in her email below, you must be fully admitted to the College of Graduate and Continuing Studies in order to receive your financial aid for the spring semester. As soon as your admission is finalized, your Pell Grant will be reinstated and applied to your student account. The Access MO Grant may take longer since the state has to send the funds to the school. You
will receive the Access MO Grant as long as you meet all eligibility requirements.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

*hidden*
Financial Aid Counselor/IT Coordinator

At least this person decided to try to assuage my fears. At least this time I have received a guarantee. Still no one has explained anything to me, nor have they told me I had to do anything besides wait.

Nearly two weeks pass and still no word from financial aid. I have been checking the financial aid profile online and no changes have been made. Until the 11th of January. I received what is an obvious automatically generated form letter saying my financial aid award letter was available online. I finally breathed a sigh of relief as I thought the financial aid office took care of everything. I was wrong. I went to the online profile and still nothing has changed. I am still several thousand dollars short due to the two grants still missing from my profile.

Still I decided to wait a few more days to give them time to update the site. On Jan 14, I sent the following email:

Dear *Loan Coordinator*,

It has been nearly two weeks since your rather vague attempt to assure me that all was well with my financial aid profile. However the proof is not in the pudding as the saying goes. I have been attempting to keep tabs on this whole sordid affair and my financial aid profile on *hidden* has still not been updated with the proper amounts that was promised me by the state. On the 11th I received an email from the financial aid office stating that I had a revised financial aid award letter available and still the financial aid profile on *hidden* is omitting my Pell and Access Missouri grants. As of today, these adjustments have not been made. Is this how it was to be revised? Am I miraculously no longer eligible for these grants but I am for the loans? What sense does this make? School starts next week and I want answers now. If you can not provide them for me I will be glad to talk to *director of financial aid* directly.

Obviously Ms. *Loan Coordinator* your office either: did not read either of my letters initial letters, did not care, or do not know how to answer the question. So I will ask it again, and if your answers are not satisfactory then I will take my questions to someone who can answer them. *I want a very meticulous explanation of why money that has already been earmarked for me by the government since the middle of last summer for attendance to *hidden* University is being fooled with simply because I am taking night classes instead of day classes.*

I should be receiving: *hidden* for a subsidized Stafford loan, *hidden* for an unsubsidized Stafford loan, *hidden* for a Pell grant, and *hidden* for a Missouri Access grant for a grand total of *hidden*. This money has already been earmarked for me by the state and federal governments since the end of last summer. *this is where I compared two competing colleges* Seeing as how *hidden* State day tuition is comparable to *hidden* night tuition, I enrolled with them just to see. I was unsurprised to find that I would be receiving a shocking *hidden* for tuition with the same breakdowns for each of the four sources of funding. As I have requested numerous times in the past I would like an explanation of this. Due to a mistake by your office last semester costing me several thousand dollars I am more than a bit wary of this whole charade. This mistake put an undue financial burden on myself and I will not suffer it again this semester.

Thank you,
*me*

I sent this email just before going to work. I’m beyond angry at this point as no one is answering my questions and no one is telling me I have anything to do besides wait for them to get around to it. While I was at work I received the following emails:

*me*,
I will try to make this as understandable as possible for you.

You have received emails from 3 people in our office stating that all financial aid is in a hold pattern until you follow through with the necessary paperwork to become a fully admitted evening school student.

As your loan coordinator, I told you you were still eligible for your guaranteed loans. I have placed them in a hold status until the
admission is completed.

As the awarder of Pell Grants and Missouri Access awards, * Financial Aid Counselor/IT Coordinator* sent this explanation to you:

“As *hidden* stated in her email below, you must be fully admitted to the College of Graduate and Continuing Studies in order to receive your financial aid for the spring semester. As soon as your admission is finalized, your Pell Grant will be reinstated and applied to your student account. The Access MO Grant may take longer since the state has to send the funds to the school. You will receive the Access MO Grant as long as you meet all eligibility requirements.”

I don’t know how much clearer we can make it. The ball is in your court to follow up with admission. If you have questions regarding this process, please contact the registrar’s office.

Also, since you felt you may need to speak with the director, *hidden*, I have copied her this email. I have also copied the email to the Dean of the evening school and the registrar for the evening school.

*hidden*
Loan Coordinator

Having never been flat lied to like this from someone who is supposed to have control over my money I was quite shocked and even more angry. Yet again, more treatment like I am some juvenile who could not fathom how the system works.

I received the following email short after the last:

Dear *me*,

Please allow me to begin by reiterating the ‘bottom line point’ in Ms. *Loan Coordinator*’s e-mail below — that you must be fully admitted to the College of Graduate and Continuing Studies in order to receive your financial aid for the 2008 spring semester.

I will be happy to explain why that is necessary, explain why having been a *hidden* day school student in the past does not meet the CGCS admission requirement, and assist you in being admitted if you will call me at telephone number highlighted, in red, immediately below.

*hidden*, H.S.D.
Dean, College of Graduate and Continuing Studies

And finally, I received this email at around 7:30 this evening:

Mr. *me*,
I will attempt to assist you with admission to the College of Graduate and Continuing Studies. You need to complete an application for admission to CGCS undergraduate program – which you can do online by going to the *hidden* webpage on the lower left corner and clicking APPLY NOW. The next page in the center column gives you the option of selecting the Continuing Studies undergraduate application.

Complete this application and submit it – since you were a day student your file will be available to us unless you have attended another school since you attended *hidden*. Otherwise we can finalize your admission application quickly since all documents are on file.

You will be unable to receive financial aid or adjust the costs of your classes until you change your status from a day student to an evening student – if this is your wish. This change can take place only through the application process. Once you are admitted – I suggest you meet with a Evening Advisor and develop and plan to meet your educational goals.

If you have any questions please contact me.

*hidden*
Director of Education Services,
Associate Registrar CGCS

This last email, while courteous, was almost insulting. All of the emails I received today were insulting to one degree or another, but this one took the cake. This person obviously did not even look at my file. They have no idea I am still a student here. I am absolutely done with all of this. In my last communique with these people I sent the following email to the Dean of the College of Graduate and Continuing Studies:

Dear * Dean, College of Graduate and Continuing Studies*,

I was informed by the CGCS office and by the Registrar’s office last semester when I registered for classes that since I was transferring I was not required to fill out an application. In the flurry of emails I have received since this afternoon, *Associate Registrar CGCS* says I need to fill out an application now. Also *Loan Coordinator* stated “You have received emails from 3 people in our office stating that all financial aid is in a hold pattern until you follow through with the necessary paperwork to become a fully admitted evening school student”. This is completely false. All I have ever been told is we are waiting on the registrar to update my student profile for admission to the CGCS. The emails only state I must be fully admitted to the CGCS. Let me make this perfectly clear: I understand that. If an application is what you and financial aid needs, or if there is anything at all I need to do, why has it taken this long for someone to say so?

If that is what is necessary, and I will be calling you first thing in the morning to get this mess sorted out, how does “you must be fully admitted to the College of Graduate and Continuing Studies in order to receive your financial aid for the 2008 spring semester” translate into something that I need to do? Until Ms. Cooper’s email today, I had never been led to believe there was anything further I needed to do besides wait. I have not received an email, I have not received a letter, nor have I received a phone call telling me my application or file was incomplete and there was something else I had to do.

I look forward to speaking with you in the morning.

Thank you,
*me*

I will get to the bottom of this in the morning. I am a paying customer and will not be treated like this. Someone will be giving me answers tomorrow or I will be leaving this school.

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Comments on: "Getting the business end of college" (1)

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