Financial aid delayed

“We need the money,” Jenna Richardson said with a reserved smile.

Richardson, a PSU freshman, was forced to borrow money from her teenage sister and mother as a last resort for paying school bills. Richardson and 56 percent of all freshmen receiving financial aid are experiencing a 30-day waiting period before it.

In response, Oregon Rep. David Wu held a press conference this Monday in front of the PSU bookstore, introducing the Financial Aid Waiting Period Elimination Bill (H.R. 227).

Richardson and classmate Emily Keane spoke at the press conference, supporting Wu’s efforts in Washington. Making the matter more personal than legislation, Richardson said she’s “had to worry more this week about money than school.”

After waiting in long lines for financial aid, Keane finally made it to the cashier’s window, only to be turned away.

“Oh, sorry, gotta wait 30 days,” Keane heard from the cashier. No one had told her about the delay.

“It’s a shock,” she said.

Richardson and Keane will both owe about $2,500 by the end of this week. The 56 percent of freshmen receiving financial aid won’t get it until Oct. 29.

In order to pay her bills, Keane is emptying her savings and borrowing money from her parents, who were “pretty cool about it,” as she put it.

Richardson’s mother was just rehired by the company who laid her off from August through September. Richardson decided to speak at the press conference so people could know the “hardships put on students” due to the delays.

Those students who can’t scrounge up the needed money by the end of this week have some other options available. PSU financial aid director Sam Collie pointed out that students “don’t have to pay tuition initially if they can’t afford it.”

The flip side to not paying tuition by the end of the week is the interest students will accrue from their debt to PSU. If affected freshmen can’t afford books, they “can get a first-term loan through the business office,” Collie suggests.

Joe Vennes, a manager at College Housing Northwest (CHNW), said over a phone interview that CHNW is “allowing students to defer rent until their aid comes in.”

Wu pointed out the larger context of the problem, saying that besides “needing books and a place to live before students start school … we need to make financial aid more accessible” for students.

“This burdensome waiting period on financial aid must be repealed so that all students can start college knowing their basic financial needs are taken care of,” Wu demanded.

Also a member of the House Education Committee, Wu will be introducing six bills supporting college affordability. Next year’s freshmen shouldn’t have to experience a waiting period on their financial aid if the legislation Wu’s introduced passes.

“Tuition increases and a stagnant economy are threatening to put college out of reach for many Oregon students,” Wu said. “I am working on the Education Committee in Congress to make sure every Oregon family can afford to send their child to college.”

In the meantime, Richardson said jokingly of her sister, “Let’s hope she doesn’t charge me interest.”