Friday, January 7, 2011

What Happens When Your College's Financial Aid Makes Changes Without Informing You

When you attend college on a limited budget, financial aid is often a major source of income. Students' depend on aid to pay for tuition, books and living expenses but what happens when the government or college departments make changes to your account that affect your financial aid?

After standing in long lines to get into the LBCC Bookstore and then stand in another line to the register, the last thing anyone wants to hear is "You have no money in your account."
Students wait in the cue outside the LBCC Bookstore

This is what happened to several students trying to purchase books, and they did not realize it until they arrived at the bookstore checkout counter on Jan. 5.
"I was told that I had a negative balance when I should have had a positive balance," said Whitney Bruce, a student at LBCC.

For students depending on funds to be available on Jan. 5, there were immediate feelings of panic. Would they have to withdraw from school? How would they be able to meet their financial obligations?

Lines rapidly shifted from the bookstore to financial aid.

For most of the students there was immediate relief, for others problems remained.
"We understood that students were frustrated," said bookstore manager Lawrence LaJoie. "We held the students books for them and gave them a pass to bypass the lines once the problem was corrected."

What happened?

"Financial aid had added a software patch to the Banner operating system that caused the student account to show a zero balance," LaJoie said.

Banner is an operating system that integrates all student systems from Financial Aid, Admissions, Registration, Bookstore and the Business Office. In order for the system to function correctly, upgrades and patches are done routinely.

This patch had to be in place in order for students to get their actual disbursement of credit balances on the correct date. The problem was brought to the attention of financial aid that morning and the assistant  director and computer services Banner consultant were able to find a solution by 2 p.m.

"This problem was not limited to LBCC. It was a software problem that affected all schools that use Banner software," said Bev Gerig, the director of financial aid.

LBCC routinely installs software upgrades and patches. Any time a law is enacted related to federal student funding, it impacts financial aid. Multiple changes are done in software every year in order to process changes in the FAFSA and to be able to deliver federal financial aid dollars to students.

"It is sometimes challenging but we spend many hours testing and analyzing upgrades and patches to make sure they work and will not impact students," said Gerig. "Unfortunately there will always be times when we miss something or Banner misses something that can cause problems beyond our control."

Will it happen again? Yes, as long as changes are mandated there is the possibility that it will happen again.

At A Glance

What can students do to prevent holds on their accounts?

Dropping classes after the tuition refund deadline or withdrawing from courses may impact you. Students who drop classes after the tuition refund period or who do not complete classes may owe a repayment of their financial aid and may be denied financial aid at LBCC and all schools.

SATISFACTORY ACADEMIC PROGRESS: Financial Aid monitors your academic progress each term. You must meet the Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) requirements to be eligible for your financial aid.  SAP failure revokes all your financial aid for all terms unless you petition this office for reinstatement.

REPORT INFORMATION:  Did you receive a scholarship or attend another college, university, or trade school this academic year? Failure to report this information to the LBCC Financial Aid Office may result in you having to repay your LBCC financial aid.

For questions about your financial aid account, contact;

Financial Aid at Takena Hall, room 117 ·· 541 917-4850 ·· Email Financial Aid

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