While TUportal serves as a communication tool for students inquiring about financial aid, it leaves out a personal and necessary human connection.
Millions of students enroll in postsecondary education each year, and of those students, a majority take on the often grueling and perplexing task of applying for financial aid. As a second-year transfer student I know this decision can be hard, forcing many, including myself to weigh the options and ask, “Is it really worth it?” I cannot be sure that the Student Financial Services office shares the same sentiment.
Among the tax forms, Free Application for Federal Student Aid, promissory notes and scholarship essays to be completed and submitted on time, the SFS office compounds the problem with the lack of communication between its office and students.
It’s not just the case that TUportal is the office’s sole means of communication, in fact TUportal acted as a liaison between students and the SFS office, which abbreviated the initial process of gathering information from the multitudes of students whom the office deals with before the start of the year. It is the latter complicated issues that often go ignored by its seemingly intuitive portal. It is the technology, which although offers many benefits, gives the impression of a despondent attitude towards a student’s respective situation.
During my transition to Temple, I experienced this problem first hand when attempting to acquire housing for the fall semester. I was unable to secure housing and as a result, I diligently submitted my withdrawal in person for housing as to not cause a drastic reduction of funds directly before the start of the fall semester.
The reduction occurred anyway and, like many other students, I was responsible for the payment of the remaining balance of tuition that was not covered by federal or state funds. This is when the personalization that can only be provided by a human being would greatly benefit a situation with many facades.
The situation I encountered was awaiting scholarships that would possibly pay for the remaining balance while also receiving automated emails threatening the cancellation of my classes. The problem was that there was no one in the SFS office that I could convey this to. It was as if the office was shut out from the world or according to the automatic summer message, was busy “processing.”
The impersonal feel of the financial aid process was compounded by an additional reduction of my aid a week before the start of the fall semester, which I was informed of by a chance log-in into TUportal. Is this the reality of the financial aid process? Must students abide by rules and regulations, take heed to approaching deadlines and only expect a busy signal when they need help with aid jargon?
The overall financial process can be unpredictable for students, which when dealing with paying for school is the last thing a student wants to be unsure about. I attempted to get a comment as to whether any effort was being put into improving the communication between SFS and students, but to no avail, no one picked up the phone.
The SFS office should be assisting in this effort and it can start by regulating the communications process and stipulating deadlines. This would be done so that students can feel a little more in touch with their situation and the SFS office itself.
Dante Peters can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.