The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Financial aid delays continue

City College students gather to protest delays of financial aid on the quad on Oct. 7. City College’s Associated Student Government urged students to walk out of their classes as part of the campus’s Day of Action.

In an attempt to protest the financial aid office’s continued delay in disbursements, City College students lead by the Associated Student Government participated in a walkout Thursday, Oct. 7, ending in the quad with dancing cheerleaders and a DJ. And although the Associated Student Government organizers, speakers and those who left class may have felt empowered, many students still waiting for financial aid feel powerless.

“I am not even capable of buying all of my books totaling over $600,” said City College student and science major Richard Martinez. “[People have been] very supportive, friends and staff have helped me financially, but how many of us are that fortunate?”

Midway through the fall semester more than 3,500 students have been successfully funded by the financial aid office, but more than 3,500 files are still incomplete, according to Catherine Fites, City College interim associate vice president of Enrollment and Student Services. Many angry students have told the ASG and the Express newspaper that they are unable to purchase textbooks, pay living expenses or simply buy food because of the continued delays in disbursements.

Fites and college administrators have maintained all semester that they are doing everything possible to get funding to all eligible students. At this time, the Financial Aid Office expects to award students waiting since August for funds within the next two weeks, and 1,500 files are ready to process, according to Fites.

City College students wait in line outside the financial aid office in Rodda North on Oct. 7. Some students have complained of long waiting times that have exceeded an hour or more.

“What I will say is that the delays in financial aid are happening statewide,” Fites said. “This is not something that is unique to Sacramento City College. We are all facing dramatic increases. Financial aid is taking longer than it has in the past.”

According to Fites, City College Free Applications for Student Aid have had an 84 percent increase over the past two years. There are an estimated 13,000 FAFSAs filed with City College by currently enrolled students, according to Fites, who predicted that the number of PELL grants to be awarded this fall semester will likely settle at 11,000 because many students drop classes before completing their files.

But the continued delay in financial aid disbursements doesn’t help students like Martinez who has been waiting for money since August. A lack of books, three-day notices on his electric bills, and transportation issues are just a few factors that may drive many students, including Martinez, to drop out when college bills become a financial burden.

“How many students had to drop and are now facing blemished records [and] transcripts?” Martinez asked. “How many are homeless or about to be? How are they studying with no books? The LRC is limited on reserves.
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On Sept. 15, Fites sent out an e-mail to the campus addressing the delays students have been experiencing with their financial aid disbursements.

Reasons listed ranged from the 84 percent increase in FAFSA application over the last two years to the financial aid office being currently understaffed by four full-time positions.

City College student and biology major Andrea Allen reaches her boiling point with the Financial Aid office on Oct. 7.

According to Fites, the City College Financial Aid office downloaded 28,502 electronic financial aid records from the FAFSA-Central Processor for the 2010-2011 school year. Other Los Rios colleges, including Cosumnes River College and Folsom Lake College, reported an increase in enrollment and FAFSA applications to the Express, though with significantly fewer applications than at City College. Cosumnes River College’s FAFSA applications totaled 15,489.

Still, delays in financial aid awards are affecting many students both in their educational and personal lives.

“I feel railroaded,” Allen said storming out of the financial aid office in tears. “It’s such a nightmare. I have bills that need to be paid.”

While other Los Rios colleges aren’t experiencing walkouts in protest of financial aid delays like that of City College, Carol Thomas, financial aid supervisor at Folsom Lake College, confirmed an increase in FAFSAs throughout the Los Rios District. Thomas also added that the different numbers of financial aid applications at each college cannot
be compared because each Los Rios college differs in enrollment numbers and application volumes.

Contributing authors: Vincent Fernandez and Maxwell McKee (Extra information on writers can be found in “About Us” section.)

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