Financial aid appeals double this semester
John M. Wyman/ Staff Writer
Financial aid appeals handled so far this semester at UAF have more than doubled from the last semester Director of Financial Aid Don Scheaffer said.
Most full-time students at UAF rely on some form of aid to pay for school. Current guidelines require students to maintain satisfactory academic standing in order to be eligible for financial aid. Low GPA levels, and failure to meet the required credits per semester lead to many students being denied aid.
Four hours prior to the close of fee payment last Wednesday, Scheaffer estimated that 300 appeals had been processed at that time, with a significant number still to be gone through. He listed the total number of financial aid recipients for the semester to be about 3,800.
Scheaffer explained that fee appeals are higher because the University now handles them for Alaska Student Loan (ASL), rather than the state.
The ASL is the largest single source of aid to students at UAF, going to about 80 percent of those who do receive some form of financial aid. Formerly, Scheaffer said, when the state dealt with the appeals, it was easier for the university but not necessarily better for the student. “Not only was it a lengthy process, but the number of successful appeals were very low,” he explained. About 95 percent of the appeals processed at UAF last week were approved.
Student Chad Goldbach explained his appeal had not gone through, “because [I] had problems with deadlines and forms. They need to make it clearer, so people are more aware of what they need to do.” Goldbach was referring to the appeal process, which requires students to write an appeal letter, meet with advisors and evaluate their academic progress, as well as obtain transcripts to turn in to the appeals committee.
Scheaffer applauds the process, saying, “it forces the student to take a serious look at their academic goals, discuss the situation with their advisors, and continue from there. We’re here to give those that deserve it a second chance, because often the reason behind being denied aid is a simple one.” He cites medical reasons and students not having the necessary background for some course they enroll in, as examples.
One interesting appeals letter he recalls getting, was from a student who wrote that the reason he didn’t pass his classes was because he walked to class in the morning with wet hair from the shower and got sick. That particular appeal was denied.
Gail Morris, a receptionist in the Financial Aid Office, says she has fielded the questions of hundreds of students during the past week, as they check on aid and appeals.
“It’s been fairly hectic at times,” Morris acknowledged.
At one point she had a student tell her to take a deep breath, when the student noticed she looked “a little stressed.”
Overall though it’s gone smoothly, Morris thought.
That seemed to be the consensus among students in Eielson Building last Wednesday.
Reeve Carlson, a Moore Hall student, summed up the fee payment process when he said, “Last semester was a mess, with lines out the doors. I was amazed when I went in this time,” he said, “and didn’t have to wait in line all day.”
Ronald Lambert, who worked with fee payment, believed there were fewer lines this semester.
“We started two days earlier,” he said, “plus spotters were around to direct students through.”
Lambert explained most of the problems encountered concerned students coming through the lines then finding out there was a hold on their financial aid.
Scheaffer urged students to start thinking now about paying for school expenses for the fall.
He recommends that all financial aid applications be submitted early for priority treatment.