Going paperless

    After decades of filling out dozens of pages of forms to receive financial aid, students may soon enjoy the ease of submitting required forms to the financial aid office electronically.

    Phillip Rodgers, who has replaced Kenneth McGhee as interim financial aid director, hopes to streamline the financial aid process during his one-year stay at Portland State. His goal is to make the transition to a paperless office – an office that students would not have to visit on a regular basis. Instead, students would submit required paperwork online.

    ”We want to reduce red tape,” Rodgers said, adding that while he thinks registration went well this year, there’s always room for improvement. “We all have to understand the process. And there are some processes we have to reevaluate because we just want to cut down on the red tape.”

    The financial aid office will also look at the variety of financial aid paperwork – forms for verification, circumstance, revision, etc. – and determine whether some of them could be retired.

    ”There’s some forms I think we can find better ways to use and not always require students to fill out,” Rodgers said.

    For Rodgers, the chance to take on a position at Portland State is an ideal one. “PSU is phenomenal,” he said, adding that he has been pleased with the department’s receptiveness to his new ideas and goals.

    ”We talked about change,” he said, “and they were ready.”

    According to Denise Wendler, associate vice president of finance and controller, the administration has been making an effort to smooth the process of registration, orientation and financial aid.

    ”We hope the students noticed the smoothness of registration and financial aid this year,” she said. “The first week should not be consumed by financial aid.”

    The department attempted to streamline the process by taking care of many financial aid situations as early as possible, so that students with special circumstances or problems could be helped with minimal delay.

    Rodgers would also like to better educate potential students about financial aid. The plan is to go out to the community and educate high school students regarding their various financial aid options, and of the benefits of applying early.

    ”The earlier you apply, the more resources are available to you,” Rodgers said.

     “We also work to be sure that they are aware that loans have to be paid back,” Wendler said.

    Portland State has a loan default rate of 2.2 percent. The national average is 5.1 percent, and the regional average of 3.5 percent.

    After Rodgers’ tenure as financial aid director is over, Wendler said that the administration would love to have him take the permanent position. However, a nationwide search for a new director is underway, and the university is currently taking applications and candidates. For now, Rodgers is happy with his position as Interim Director, and so is the rest of the staff.

    ”He is so positive, and provides such service to students,” Wendler says. “We are just thrilled to have him on board.”

    The former Financial Aid Director, McGhee, left Portland State in June to serve as the executive director of financial aid for Cuyahoga Community College, a three-college system in the greater Cleveland area of Ohio.

    The university implemented a search committee in June to find McGhee’s replacement, resulting in the hiring of Rodgers.

    During McGhee’s tenure at Portland State, the financial aid office implemented a new policy that closed a loophole allowing students who received financial aid for full time enrollment to receive a refund if they dropped below 12 credits. Financial aid disbursements are now adjusted during the fifth week of the term based on the student’s actual enrollment. Under the new policy, a full-time student would owe financial aid money back if they dropped below eight credits by the fifth week of the term.

    McGhee told the Vanguard in Sept. 2005 that the policy was changed to make Portland State’s policies more consistent with other universities statewide as well as nationally.