Students frustrated by financial aid delays

The City College Financial Aid Office appears to have processed student applications and check disbursements approximately three times slower than the American River College Financial Aid Office this semester.

City College’s Financial Aid Office received 20,258 financial aid applications for 2009-10 consideration and has disbursed 8,707 awards. American River College’s Financial Aid Office has processed 25,704 applications and has disbursed awards to 23,948 students, according to financial aid officials at both colleges.

City College and American River College have the two highest rates of enrollment in the Los Rios Community College District at 27,879 and 36,975 respectively, according to Associate Vice Chancellor of Communications and Research Susie Williams. Both schools are experiencing a larger volume of financial aid applications this fall compared to fall 2008.

“Each Los Rios College Financial Aid Office operates under different policies, processes and timelines in which they perform certain actions,” said City College Financial Aid director Kimberly Cortijo.

“Four months before the fall semester begins, we start processing applications and requesting documents,” said Roy Beckhorn, American River College Financial Aid supervisor. “We do disbursements once a week. Every Friday disbursements go out.”

Some students expressed concern that City College’s Financial Aid Office staff seem overwhelmed, need to be better informed and improve their office communication.

“Standing in line is tedious and counter-productive when the staff person is not informed and the person who has the information is not available,” said Jessica Siebert, international studies major.

Faculty members have also expressed concern over delays in financial aid disbursements.

“It’s really difficult and frustrating as a professor when I have students in class who have told me they … haven’t received their money,” explained Patti Redmond, communications professor. “So they may go one, two, four weeks into a semester without the textbooks and they may not have access to information needed for assignments or a test.”

City College’s Financial Aid Office has made some adjustments in the services it offers students this fall. There are now two counseling desks available to help with documentation requirements, and for the first time the entire loan process can be completed online.

There is also a separate counter for loan disbursements that alleviates lines at the general services counters.
The City College Financial Aid Office publicized Appeals for Special Circumstances, Consortium Agreements and loans in an effort to reach out and inform students about additional options for aid consideration this semester.

The office’s move caused dramatic increases in submissions figures.

“We have already surpassed last year’s figures in Appeals for Special Circumstances and we are not even halfway through the year,” said Cortijo.