FOR THE QC
Coming into my second year at Whittier, I expected things to run smoothly when it came to paying for my tuition. I had done this once before, I just had to do the same thing again, right? Wrong. Little did I know, I would be waiting months for my financial aid package.
I was anxious for most of the summer, due to the fact that I wasn’t getting my financial aid (even though some people I knew had already gotten their package), and that there was no communication with me as to why this was happening. I didn’t know what to do. The Financial Aid and Business Office didn’t pick up my calls, I never got a response through email, and I didn’t have the time to go down in person to resolve the issue. I felt alone.
The lack of communication was due to “office staffing and some delays on important documentation,” as stated by Vice President of Finance and Administration Jim Dunkelman. This topic is no stranger to some students. “Not only does the Financial Aid Office neglect to answer their phones, they generally maintain zero percent communication with students,” said second-year Harmony Albarran. Though some may disagree, the Financial Aid Department failed to notify students when they were going to get their packages, resulting in a mass email to be sent out on Aug. 16. The emailed stated, “The Business Office is aware that your financial aid awards may still be pending at the time your bill was produced,” and when I emailed them back to follow up they replied with “. . . there has been a delay in the Financial Aid Department packaging students for the 2019 – 20 year,” without giving much reason as to why.
Compared to last year, I had gotten my award package on June 22. According to Dunkelman’s statement on the late aid this year, “Financial aid packages . . . were sent out in July as opposed to June, when they are typically sent.”
For the next two weeks, I repeated the same process I did all summer: constantly refresh the my.whittier.edu page, anxiously check my email, and panic over the fact that I may not get my package before the semester begins. On Aug. 29, I got an email from the Financial Aid Office ( finally) but I didn’t notice it right away due to the contents being marked for “spam.” I was clearing out my inbox and was going to delete some emails when I noticed there was a spam email that said “CONGRATULATIONS! You have been awarded financial aid.”
Now, if I had gotten this on my personal email account, I would’ve deleted it immediately. However, since this was my school account, I clicked on it because I never get spam on this account. After analyzing the email cautiously, I came to the conclusion that it was legit and that I needed to check my.whittier.edu. A thought troubles me, though; if I never went to delete those emails, then I wouldn’t have seen that my financial aid package was ready until it was too late. Albarran had a similar experience. “It wasn’t until I checked my.whittier.edu for myself that I discovered that there were documents I needed to send . . . before I could receive my financial aid award letter.” This had happened on Aug. 19 and she told me that, later on, she got emails saying that there were unsatisfied requirements that needed to be met.
If there was better communication between the offices and the students, this situation could have been avoided and stress would have been alleviated from those who were affected. Sure, students could have been the first to reach out and all of this would have never happened. “But [sending urgent emails] didn’t take away from the fact that I had to make the first move towards communication,” Albarran said. This displays the fact that even though there were some students who contacted first, not much happened until the Business Office sent the mass email on Aug. 16. Some of us are paying an immense amount of money to go to Whittier, we expect there to be communication between administration and students — especially for something as important as financial aid.