Changes aimed at streamlining financial aid disbursement this fall could require students to pay back a portion of their loan disbursement if their fifth-week enrollment is less than it was at the term’s start, angering students who say the change may force them to pay back money that may have already been spent on other needs.
Under the previous financial aid policy, according to financial aid staff, it had not been typical for students at PSU to be billed for monies they had already received.
The changes are being made in an effort to make the loan disbursement process more efficient by eliminating the need for students to fill out Revision Request forms when their actual enrollment is less than the intended enrollment stated on their FAFSA, said Kenneth McGhee, director of student financial aid.
Instead, the loans will be disbursed at the level in which the student is enrolled, and available funds will increase if the credit load increases. If the student’s intended enrollment is full-time or 12 credits, but the student’s actual enrollment is six credits, the full amount of loans will still disburse. Other types of aid, such as the Pell Grant, will be disbursed based on the number of credits the student is enrolled for.
At the end of the fifth week of the term, however, any overpaid funds will have to be paid back. Students will receive a bill and will have until the end of the term to pay the debt to the Bursar’s Office. There is also an option to set up a payment plan.
Some students see the changes as being driven less by a concern for the needs of students and more by the bottom line. Art History senior Alisa Nathan said that it seemed unreasonable to expect students to be able to pay back money that had already been eaten up by school and living expenses.
“It’s bullshit. They stick this provision in the middle of a letter saying how they’re making everything better for everyone, but how does this make things better for students? I need my full disbursement whether I’m taking eight credits or 20.”
Nathan thinks that the policy may have been an attempt to close a loophole, saying that she knew of students who intentionally enrolled at 12 credits but dropped to eight after the loan had been disbursed. McGhee, however, said that he had heard rumors about students doing this, but that they had nothing to do with the changes being made.
McGhee said that the new policy, in addition to eliminating paperwork, would bring PSU more in line with a majority of state and national institutions where these policies have been in effect for many years. “We can’t keep saying ‘This is our way of doing it. So what if it’s different from everyone else?'”
He added that there have been instances in the past when eligible students’ financial aid needs could not be met because of limited funds, and that the new system would ensure that these funds were available. “We’re just being consistent with everyone else. We’re trying to let people know that we have to go by what is your actual enrollment, not your estimated enrollment,” McGhee said.
Full details about the change in policy can be found at http://www.pdx.edu/finaid/disbursement.html