‘Chaos ensues’ for short-staffed Financial Aid

Derek Pufahl, Staff Writer

Students, new and old, may still be recovering from the headaches brought on by waiting in long lines at the Financial Aid Office at the beginning of the school year.

It’s still being processed. It hasn’t gone through yet. And for some, financial aid has only just recently “gone through.”

But the reason for this cannot be put solely on the shoulders of lazy students who file their FAFSA’s last minute.

The Financial Aid Office and Student Financial Services are a combined force over in the Hahn Building. Together, they have a six-person staff plus one switchboard operator who actually works in Mail Services. In the first weeks of the school year, chaos ensues.

Wayne State College welcomed 903 incoming students this semester, bringing the total enrollment figure to 3,344 according to Director of Admissions Kevin Halle.

Lines were out the door and phones were off the hook.

“It’s crazy at that time,” Director of Financial Aid Annette Kaus said, “and we absolutely don’t have the man power to get those financial aid files done as fast as students would like them done.”

Kaus said that a cashiering/ accounting clerk position and an office assistant II position still need to be filled.

“So, we were down two people going into the fall semester. Which is crazy,” Kaus said.

The office is swamped at this time, with students buying parking permits, signing up for payment plans, getting student ID’s, helping students with financial aid and practically anything money-related.

Kaus said that the office tries communicating with students in the summer to get them to put everything in order earlier, but most students don’t check e-mail during the summer. Also, it seems to be easier for students to just come down and take care of things in person.

There are a large number of students who don’t get around to finishing up FAFSA issues until August.

It’s a problem that Kaus and Director of Business Services Rebecca Siebrandt are working to fix.

“We’re looking at ways we can make things more electronic for the students,” Kaus said. “We’re also looking at trying to set up an informal information session maybe in the spring that would help student to remember to do their FAFSA and talk about some things that are maybe tripping people up.”

However, many students are very aware of how to file their FAFSA’s and did get everything in on time. Some of these students only recently got their financial aid issues sorted out. Some, worried that they may have to pay for tuition out of pocket if their financial aid didn’t go through, dropped classes and some students transferred.

Halle didn’t comment on any issues that the financial aid office may have been having, but he did provide information on student enrollment. And the numbers, though slightly, overall, have decreased.

When you get right down to it, during that crunch time at the beginning of the semester, what would really help the office is simply more hands to answer phones, find paperwork and hand out forms to students.

“I think that the school tried to make a ‘one-stop shop’ here,” Kaus said. “And we just have to find some ways to make it work a little better.”

Kaus said that even with the two empty positions filled, they could certainly use another person to help during the start of the semester.

Vice President of Academic Administration Angela Fredrickson said that she is working with the Kaus to help solve some of these issues.

“They’re really busy in August, but then not as much the rest of the year,” Fredrickson said. “It’s cyclical. So we’re working on how to resolve that.”

Kaus also admitted that the Financial Aid Office was late this semester in starting to pull in results from students’ FAFSA’s.

“We were a little behind, because of me being new,” Kaus said. “Last year we had the same kind of problems, it’s just that I wasn’t aware of them as much.”